Monday, June 30, 2014

Know before you go: United Airlines enforces new baggage size limits

If you’ve flown on United Airlines recently, you probably noticed that they have set up new carry-on baggage sizers at their gates and at many of the check-in areas. This co-ordinates with a policy that was implemented system-wide on March 1, 2014.
Packed and ready to travel

This is good news for those of us who have stayed within the size limits during flights. You’ve undoubtedly seen passengers boarding with a suitcase, large backpack, overstuffed shopping bag, pillow, and more. No wonder there hasn’t been room in the overhead bins for everyone’s luggage. In the past United was lax in enforcing its policies, and when passengers exploited the lack of enforcement, the boarding process was slowed down for everyone.

All passengers, including elite status or first-class travelers, may be required to place both carry-on and personal items in the sizers to check for compliance. Reports are that United’s sizers are actually slightly larger than the dimensions listed, enabling these items to fit in there comfortably.

The new size limits as posted are:

One personal item that fits under the seat, such as a laptop case, shoulder bag, backpack,  or other small item (no larger 9'' x 10'' x 17'')
One carry-on bag that fits in the overhead bin (no larger than 9" x 14" x 22" including handles and wheels)
Also note that the following items are allowed and do not count toward your one bag and one personal item limit:
  • Jacket or umbrella
  • Reading material\
  • Pet carrier (service charges apply)
  • FAA-approved child restraint seat
  • Diaper bag
  • Food or merchandise purchased in the airport
  • Assistive devices (collapsible wheelchair, cane, one set of crutches, medical devices needed to administer prescription medications, portable oxygen concentrator, etc.)

Use United's sizers to be
sure your luggage meets
size requirements for
bringing onboard.
Need to pack more? Just check your large or extra bags at the counter before security screening. Note that even if you’ve carried on a certain bag before—and it fit in the overhead bin—it may not be allowed if it exceeds the posted size. You’ll be required to check bags to your final destination if they are too large or too numerous. Instead of gate-checking at no cost to passengers, you can now expect to pay the baggage fee.

If you have a United credit card, your first checked bag is free. And you can check one bag without charge on overseas flights.

Photos from United Airlines and free images.


Sunday, June 29, 2014

Travel clinics prepare you for safe travels

Planning a trip to a foreign country? Overseas travel might involve health risks depending on destination, length of stay, and such things as change in altitude. Added to that is the possibility of being exposed to an infectious disease, including diseases no longer prevalent in the U. S. like polio or measles.

Along with  your passport and travel plans, make sure
you have all necessary immunizations for your worldly destination.
If you’re traveling to Mexico, Central America, South America, Africa, Asia or certain Pacific islands, you should check with the Centers for Disease Control or the U.S. State Department to see if any immunizations are recommended or required prior to travel. Certain medications, such as for malaria or altitude sickness, may need to be started before you depart and also taken during your stay in susceptible countries.
While the Internet provides basic information, it might be too general to address your specific travel plans. The best way to protect your health is to consult a travel medicine specialist four to six weeks before departure. Since general practice physicians typically don’t stock travel-specific vaccines, look for a travel clinic that will have these on hand. During your consultation you’ll also get information about safe practices (for example, what to eat and drink and what to avoid) in the country you’ll be visiting. You may also be educated on accident prevention, which is the most common cause of injury or death during travel.

Multiple vaccinations can be give at
the same visit to a travel clinic.
At the travel clinic you’ll be asked if you are current with routine immunizations (MMR, DPT, chicken pox, flu, etc.). These may need updating; and if you need shots for hepatitis, yellow fever, or other diseases, you’ll have plenty of time to get them.
People who have existing health issues should discuss these with the health care provider at the travel clinic to determine if it’s safe to travel where they are planning. Finally, if you return home and develop symptoms, sometimes weeks or months later, a travel clinic can help diagnose and treat diseases.

Bottom line: Travel where you wish, but start your trip preparation to questionable countries at a specialized travel clinic.
Photos from free bing images


Saturday, June 28, 2014

Have you captured these sights on your camera?

During my travels throughout the past decade, I’ve been fortunate to visit some of the most photographed places in the world. Of course, there are many more that could be included, but here are three that seem to capture the photographic attention of many visitors.
Trevi Fountain is one of the must-see sites in Rome.
Trevi Fountain—Rome, Italy

Sure, it’s crowded, but that’s because so many people want to get close enough to toss a coin into the water. Legend says tossing a coin in the fountain guarantees a return to Rome. (I wonder when that will be for me!) The carved statues of the massive Baroque fountain, largest in the city, are among the most beautiful in the world. In the center is a statue of Ocean; on his left is Abundance, and on his right is a statue of Health. If you can get all of that in one photo, you’ve got a better vantage point than most visitors.üell
Fanciful castle in Gaud's Park Guell
in Barcelona
Park Güell--Barcelona, Spain

A fantasy land of huge architectural proportions (it’s one of the largest architectural compounds in southern Europe),  Park Guell is an historic landmark with plenty of outdoor stairs leading to numerous vantage points that make for easy photographing.  Famed architect AntoniGaudi designed the garden complex as an ode to nature using rock, colorful tiles, and plants to fashion unusual structures. The result is either considered a masterful work or a gaudy bit of self-promotion. (I loved it!)

Colorful storefronts in Buenos Aires
Caminito--Buenos Aires, Argentina

Located in Buenos Aires’s beautiful La Boca district, the cobblestone Caminito (Spanish for “little path”) is lined with bright primary-colored buildings. Artists sell their paintings from kiosks, and local vendors spread their wares for the Sunday market.  The colorful storefronts attract tourists who enjoy wandering in search of a local bargain. It’s like a street museum in the city but the perfect locale for learning tango or enjoying a drink al fresco.
Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier




Friday, June 27, 2014

Ticks and mosquitoes can put a sting in summer travels

Families often travel during the summer to destinations filled with potentially harmful insects such as mosquitoes and ticks.  If your home region doesn’t have these outdoor bugs, you should learn how to protect yourself and children from bites and stings. If you live in one of the bug-prone states, it’s important to use proper insect repellent and avoid areas with high insect populations.

Spray exposed skin surfaces with insect repellent when
outdoors where ticks or mosquitoes are prevalent.
Ticks are especially prominent on the East coast with Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and New York the states most likely to have ticks that transmit Lyme disease and other serious infections. Areas where ticks are on the rise include Maryland, Virginia, and Washington D.C.

Mosquitoes, typically found in rainy regions including along the Gulf Coast and in mid-western/ northern states, can transmit Zika, West Nile virus, St. Louis encephalitis virus, eastern equine encephalitis virus and even dengue. Be especially vigilant after rains as standing water provides a fertile breeding ground for mosquitoes.

To prevent illnesses from these summer insects, The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests these tips to keep children—and adults--safe:

Dressing appropriately for outdoor activities
is a natural way to deter harmful insects.
• Don't use scented soaps, perfumes or hair sprays.
• Avoid areas where insects nest or congregate, such as stagnant pools of water, uncovered foods and gardens where flowers are in bloom. Ticks are more common in leaf-litter and high grasses.
• To keep ticks at a distance, use repellent containing 20% DEET. (The concentration of DEET varies significantly from product to product, so read the label of any product you purchase. DEET should not be used on children under two months of age.)
• When hiking in areas where ticks are prevalent, wear long sleeved shirts and long pants tucked into socks.
Some clothing comes with build-in insect repellent. You
can also purchase a permethrin spray to add protection to
any regular clothing.

For mosquitoes, it is recommended to use products that contain DEET as well, but picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus can also be used. You can also treat clothing with permethrin or purchase clothing that is pre-treated with permethrin.
• After coming inside, shower as soon as possible and check your body for ticks. Wash and tumble dry clothing and check your pets for ticks.
• Consult your healthcare provider if you develop a rash, fever, body aches, fatigue or headache, stiff neck, disorientation in the 1-3 weeks following a bite. It could be any number of illnesses.
Photos from free images.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Take a chill-pill when traveling with children

Sea World is fun for children or grandchildren in tow.
As families head out for summer vacations, parents often become stressed about traveling with children, especially young children who may have trouble adapting to new places and routines. Spontenaity may be fine for adults, but children generally do better with established routines. Kids can get tired and cranky when faced with too many unfamiliar changes to their lives.
Here are some tips to help keep stress under control, so everyone will enjoy the time away:

Parents can ease fears when
sharing a tube ride on the lake.
First of all, relax. Stress is contagious. If you’re stressed, the kids will sense that and become stressed, too. Take plenty of time to plan the trip, organize items to take, and pack carefully so you’ll be able to find things when you need them. Take along a favorite item for each child—a blanket, toy, stuffed animal, or pillow—to ease anxiety when they’re bedding down in a new place--doesn’t matter if it’s a hotel or grandma’s house, clutching something familiar can ease anxiety.
Remember that vacations are about having a good time and bonding as a family. Don’t fret if things don’t go exactly as planned. Be flexible and concentrate on the memories you’re making together. In later years, you’ll be amazed at how much children remember from family trips, and it’s often the small shared moments that make the greatest impact.

If unexpected things happen, don’t freak out. Take it in stride if you’re faced with detours or closed attractions. A little humor goes a long way towards keeping situations in perspective. There very well may be rainy days—both literally and figuratively—so have contingent plans in mind.
Snacking keeps everyone in a good mood.
Have snacks readily available whether you’re traveling by car, plane, train, or boat. Children need to eat more frequently than adults, so a offering quick bite to eat can chase away the grumpies.

Trying new adventures like zip lining
on vacation provides fun family stories later.
Avoid parental stress by budgeting enough funds to carry the family through any minor mishaps that might occur. If you’re worried or distracted because restaurant meals cost more than you anticipated, your kids will sense that and may start to act up. It’s a quick way for any vacation to fall off track.
Schedule in plenty of relaxation time; nap time or a regular bed time can be good for both children and adults. Kids may become overly tired if there’s too much stimulation or activity. When that happens, no one has a good time. Head off the melt-down by making sure children get adequate rest and meals at the appropriate times.

Lastly, relax. It bears repeating: When parents can chill and enjoy the vacation, anxiety levels drop for everyone and the whole family benefits.
Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Set sail for the best cruise vacations in the world

There has never been a better time to find your sea legs and book a cruise vacation. One report in the ETN Global Travel Industry News suggests that holidaymakers worldwide are enjoying more and more cruising vacations with figures indicating a massive 2 million passenger increase in the past year alone. Many people enjoy the luxury, relaxation and entertainment that they can experience onboard a cruise liner and the convenience of visiting so many places while only having to unpack once. But what are the best cruise destinations? Here are just a few:
Cruise ship is dwarfed by glaciers in Alaska.

An Alaskan cruise is an awe-inspiring trip. From the deck of a ship you can literally breath in the icy snowcaps and monumental glaciers (such as the Hubbard Glacier which is over 6 miles wide) while catching a glimpse of bears, eagles and other wildlife on the harsh terrain of the shore. The scenery is majestic, the sun shines brightly and once on land you can spend your day trips and stopovers enjoying everything from mountain hikes, dog sledding and whale watching to some old fashioned shopping, drinking and dancing in places such as Juneau and Skagway.
South America

The beauty of a cruise vacation is that it gives passengers the opportunity to experience a variety of destinations and nothing could be more varied than a cruise of South America. Whether you choose to explore the tropical rainforests in Brazil, the exotic beaches in Rio, the high fashion in Buenos Aires or the snowy Andes mountain range in Chile, you’ll always remember the vibrant and dramatic coastline of South America.

Hop on board a cruise around the Med, and you can experience the high culture of some of the most important capital cities in the world alongside beautiful coastlines and magnificent beaches. Whether you opt for a tour of the Greek Islands, a jaunt around the Costa Del Sol or a relaxing retreat in the French Riviera you are guaranteed warm weather, great food and authentic European culture. Stop off at the Eternal City itself: Rome. Here you can spend a day touring some of the most iconic, ancient landmarks in the world then hop back on board your liner and wake up in a completely different, bustling city the next day.

A Caribbean cruise gives you the opportunity to experience true paradise. From sparkling beaches, palm trees, stunning, clear water and year-round sunshine you will feel like you have fallen into a dream. Being the most popular cruising region in the world, there are many cruise packages that operate from different areas, but because island ports are often close together you can generally experience a number of venues on your trip. Swim with dolphins in Jamaica, visit Devil's Bridge in Antigua, or check out ancient ruins in Mexico – wherever you go you can relax, unwind and soak up the Caribbean sunshine.
Spectacular scenery of Norwegian fjords

The Norwegian fjords are truly magical. A cruise around Norway, Greenland and Iceland might be choppy, but the stunning glaciers, green coastlines and remote fishing villages that you can visit along your journey will make up for it. Your days will seem long as the sun barely goes down during the summer months giving you more time to make the most of your trip.  

Photos and article contributed by Susie Jones, travel writer.  








Monday, June 23, 2014

Banish blisters, the bane of hiking

Rain, cold, and bugs may be annoying on a hike, but you can usually deal with them or they disappear in time. A blister can cause you to call the whole thing off.  You can’t control Mother Nature, but you can lessen the risk for blisters by understanding what causes them and applying preventative strategies, especially if walking or hiking for long periods of time.

A Blister Is Born: Excess weight, wetness, dryness, or other factors can result in friction between two surfaces.  Eventually heat from friction causes a separation of skin layers that allows fluid to enter. The result is a painful blister that just grows if not treated promptly.

Prevention Is Key:

·        Lighten your backpack load.

·        Use padded insoles to distribute pressure evenly over the surface of the foot.

·        Wear properly fitted footwear that has been “broken in.”

·        Wear less abrasive, wicking socks. Avoid cotton socks that absorb moisture.

·        Wear two socks—a smooth, thin, sock against the skin and a thick, woven sock that moves with footwear (friction occurs between sock layers rather than sock and skin)

·        Place a barrier at the point of potential blister formation (adhesive bandages, even duct tape will do)

·        Try lubricants and antiperspirants on your feet.

Proper care:  If fluid accumulates, drain the blister and cover with a protective dressing.  It should heal in about 48 hours—that is, if it’s not aggravated further. If possible change to a different pair of shoes with different pressure points (ideally, not at the spot where the blister occurred).

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Travel smart--stay healthy, part 2

Not every country has the same standards for food preparation as the U.S., so it’s up to travelers to be aware and to avoid questionable items. Nature can provide healthy challenges, beautiful scenery, and relaxation--but it can also harbor allergens and other potential health risks. Here are more tips to keep the travel bug from biting back.

Eat, Drink, and be…sick?

·         “Boil it, cook it, peel it, or forget it.”  That’s good advice to avoid traveler’s diarrhea, the scourge of any trip to a lesser developed country, including Mexico, a favorite destination for Americans.  A vaccine to provide protection against illness from risky food and water is in the experimental stages.

·         Drink only bottled or boiled water, and take your cola sans ice.

·         Skip fruit drinks and milk, raw foods, or salads (including lettuce and tomato on that burger)

·         Don’t eat food offered by street vendors.

·         Wash your hands with soap frequently.

·         If you’re tempted to snap up a gooey cinnamon roll in the airport or a candy bar at the next gas station, plan ahead by packing apples, nuts, and other healthy treats in your carry-on bag or purse.  Snack frequently, and you’ll lighten your load.

·         Avoid the primary cause of tourist’s stomach ailments—overindulgence.

Don’t Mess with Mother Nature

·         Allow your body time to acclimatize to high altitudes.  Regardless of age or overall health, mountain illnesses can develop within the first few days of arrival as your body adjusts to changes in air pressure and oxygen above 8,000 feet.  Shortness of breath, headache, and nausea can make an idyllic mountain setting miserable.

·         Avoid strenuous exercise until you get acclimated.

·         Drink extra fluids—but not alcohol.  Eat frequent, small meals.

·         When hiking, wear good fitting, broken-in shoes and boots.  Leave cotton socks that absorb moisture in your suitcase, as these practically guarantee blisters.  Instead, choose less abrasive socks made of materials that wick moisture away from your feet. 

·         Splurge on sunscreen.  Remember that sunburn happens more at higher altitudes, since UV intensity increases four percent for every 1000 feet of elevation. Also sunlight reflects off sand, concrete, water, and snow.

·         Even in winter, sunburn can be more than just annoying.  Too much sun may elevate your temperature, and we know skin cancer results from excessive UV rays. 

Snuff out sniffles

·         Check weather and pollen forecasts online prior to arrival, especially if you have airborne allergies.

·         Consider vacationing at the beach or in the mountains, where you’ll find the cleanest air.

·         Keep car windows rolled up and the air conditioner on.

·         Ask for non-smoking, air-conditioned rooms at hotels, and check to see if wood, tile, or vinyl floors are available since these minimize the presence of mites and mold.

Travel smart, and you’ll have a healthy, rejuvenating vacation.  

 Photos from free images





Saturday, June 21, 2014

Travel smart--stay healthy, part 1

Lounging on white sand beaches, hiking in crisp mountain air, shopping in foreign cities, or sampling exotic cuisine may be your vision of the perfect vacation.  But a dose of jet lag, diarrhea, motion sickness, sunburn, or altitude illness can quickly sabotage any plans for a relaxing get-away.  Here are some tips to keep the travel bug from biting back (more tips to follow).

Start healthy  

·         Eat and drink healthy foods in moderation and get plenty of sleep before leaving--rather than exhausting yourself with arrangements for your absence.   

·         If traveling to developing countries, check with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at least six weeks prior to travel for information about vaccinations and health advice at your destination.

·         Make a medical first-aid kit with familiar over-the-counter and prescription medications. 

·         Take bottled water and drink frequently to stave off effects of dehydration from recirculated air in planes and cars.

Improve circulation.  

·         Keep moving to prevent blood clots from blocked circulation during prolonged travel.  Inactivity on long flights or riding in a car for hours can put you at risk for deep vein thrombosis. Exercise by pressing the balls of your feet down while raising your heels

·         Avoid crossing your legs.

·         Skip the cocktail.

·         Check with your doctor if you take contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy as these may increase risk of blood clots (being pregnant or having recently delivered increase risk, too).

·         Prevent ear pain when flying because of changing cabin pressure by taking a decongestant at least 90 minutes ahead of time--or chewing gum during take-off and landing.

Fool your body’s internal clock.   

·         To stave off jet lag, schedule your arrival in a new time zone at what would be your usual bedtime in the old time zone. 

·         Immediately change your watch to the new time zone; then sleep for a few hours. 

·         If that’s not possible, get wet--jump in the shower or pool; stay in sunlight. Adjustment is gradual—at the rate of one hour per day.

Sway? No way. 

·         If rolling waves on a boat make you tipsy and reading a map in the car means an unscheduled roadside stop, try to travel where there’s the least motion—in a car’s front seat, over a plane’s wing, on a ship’s deck or mid-section.

·         Focus on scenery when traveling on land, or keep your eyes on the horizon.

·         Try self-hypnosis or take ginger, a traditional Chinese herbal remedy.

·         Avoid strong odors, smoke, and excessive food or drink.

Photos from free images 

Friday, June 20, 2014

A tale about an airport angel

I didn’t realize how great the differences are between flying in the constricted confines of economy class versus travelling in front of the curtain—not until my trip to Africa several years ago. One portion of the flight was extraordinary not only for the superior level of service, attention, and space but also for how I came to sit in seat 1C.

It happened in the most unlikely of airports--in Zimbabwe,Africa.

Rainbow over Victoria Falls in Zambia
My husband Larry and I had spent two weeks on photo safaris in Tanzania and Kenya before heading south to see fabled Victoria Falls. After spending three days in the south central country of Zambia soaking up the misty ambience, we crossed the border to view Victoria Falls from the Zimbabwe side.

When it was time to leave, we were concerned because we had heard horror stories about traveling in less-developed Zimbabwe. So we were wary about flying to Cape Town from the small, chaotic airport.

We queued up for check-in along with hundreds of other travelers, barely moving even though an employee shepherded everyone, especially the gray heads,  into the proper lines. Just as we resigned ourselves to standing there for a long time, a small, wiry man walked towards us.

“Come with me,” the man said, nodding our way. Like obedient sheep (having been herded so much already, it seemed natural to follow), we left the line and wandered in his direction.
A narrow gorge showcases different views of
Victoria Falls on the Zimbabwe side
“Stay here,” he said authoritatively as he whisked our luggage behind a counter. We didn’t have boarding passes yet and weren’t officially checked in for the flight, so it didn’t appear that our bags could be tagged for our destination. But they were now out of sight.

“Your bags have been weighed,” the man reported in a crisp manner that suggested he was no stranger to this procedure. “May I see your tickets and passports?” It really wasn’t a question; he expected us to hand them over. We did.

Then he hurried away. And got lost in the crowd.

Then I was worried. Our tickets and passports were in the hands of a nameless Zimbabwean airport vagabond. Where did he go? Why did he need our documentation? Was he selling our way out of the country on the black market? Would we ever see him again?

I scoured the crowded terminal, but looking for the slightly built figure who now controlled our travel plans was like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack.

We could do nothing but wait.

Afraid that we had lost our place in line and would need to start all over again, our concern increased. I fidgeted; Larry paced. I sighed; Larry grimaced.

Red sunset on the Zambia River
Finally, emerging from a wall of bodies, our airport acquaintance strode across the terminal, a smug smile on his face. He handed over all the documents we feared were lost.

“You’ve been upgraded to business class,” he announced, obviously pleased that he’d manipulated the system to his advantage.

“What do you mean?” I stammered, too surprised to process his announcement.

“You’re in business class,” he repeated. “First row. You’re all ready to go. Proceed to immigration.”

Caught off guard, Larry fumbled in his pocket for a tip but only came up with a dollar, a pittance for the huge gift we had just received. And, I’m sure, hardly what our airport friend expected. Only after the fact did we realize that our airport angel probably was a hustler looking for a large tip from what he imagined to be wealthy, weary tourists. (Ha!)

Ironically, our best tip for him was just because travelers look frazzled--and have gray hair as Larry does--doesn’t mean they have a stash of ready cash.

That flight was the best leg of a long journey. Never before had I been offered a glass of wine before the plane backed away from the terminal, had a linen napkin spread across my tray table, or been served a gourmet three-course meal complete with soft, hot rolls. Never before had I been the very first person off an airplane after arriving at my destination.

I vowed that if the gods of flight put us in the path of another airport angel, I’ll be sure to thank him properly.

Photos by Beverly Burmeier