Travel safety updates: what you need to know to stay safe while you’re traveling this year

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Travel is always a risky venture, even if your flight goes perfectly according to plan with no hitches. The problem is that while a lot of people spend time worrying about whether their plane will stay in the air, they don’t give a lot of thought to all the other risk factors you need to think about when you’re on the move.

Here’s our updated guide to staying safe when you take your next trip:

First off, you should take a minute to bookmark the TSA’s travel site on your browser, and make a habit of checking for any new alerts before you book your tickets, and before you get on your flight. The government uses this site to issue travel risk assessments for different parts of the world, and it’s your way of knowing whether you should go through with your plans, regardless of whether something’s been in the news about your destination. You can also sign up to be updated whenever they change a threat or risk warning, which we think is the best choice for people who fly regularly.

When you travel, you obviously have to bring money in some form. We suggest keeping a small amount of emergency cash with you, but for the most part, you’ll be relying on your credit card to do transactions, and yes–we do definitely suggest credit cards over debit, because they’re much easier to resolve if you run into fraud. Before you pack your wallet, take some basic credit card precautions. Let your bank or card issuer know you’ll be travelling, especially if you’ll be abroad. That way, they won’t inadvertently shut your card off when they see a foreign transaction. You should also invest in RFID sleeves for all your cards, since chips are relatively easy to hack with a wireless device. RFID sleeves block the signal, which renders the method useless. It’s a good idea to do the same for your passport, so nobody can steal your identity digitally.

One safety tip we’re adding this year is to be super careful to check references and reviews on AirBnB, since we know many travelers have started using it as their first option. You should always go for a verified, preferred host where possible. In our opinion, it’s completely worth spending an extra few dollars per night to stay somewhere you can feel safe.

Finally, we can’t stress enough how important it is to take precautions with all your digital activity when you’re not in your own home or office. Public wifi networks are super convenient, but they’re also incredibly easy to hack and have your info intercepted. Never make payments or send valuable personal details on public wifi. If you’re going to be using internet services a lot while you’re traveling (and most of us will), you should invest in a VPN service. These apps let you use a private server to stay anonymous online, and keep your information safe from prying eyes watching the public streams.

Yes, we know, every single travel tip this year involves the internet. It shouldn’t really come as much of a surprise, given how much we rely on the web for everything these days. It’s the primary tool of every traveller, which just means it’s also your biggest vulnerability.

As you add all these digital precautions to your checklist, don’t forget any of the older common-sense steps to take to stay safe, like making copies of personal documents, and keeping wallets somewhere that’s hard to pickpocket. These rules still apply, just make sure to update your whole safety routine for the digital age!

Dealing with bedbugs acquired while traveling: how to defeat nasty pests using steam cleaners, clever luggage tricks, and isolation techniques

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Dealing with bedbugs acquired while traveling: how to defeat nasty pests using steam cleaners, clever luggage tricks, and isolation techniques

Bedbugs are the traveller’s worst nightmare. They can come from anywhere: hotel beds, contaminated luggage, or even the person next to you on a plane. While they don’t jump like fleas, they can crawl quickly, and they’re very tricky to get rid of if you let an infestation get out of hand.

Here’s our tips for avoiding bedbugs, keeping picked-up bedbugs from infecting your home, and dealing with an infestation that arrives unexpectedly.

To avoid picking them up in the first place, check carefully around any hotel or hostel bed, looking at seams of the mattress in particular. It’s also good common sense to keep your luggage off of carpeted floors, since bugs can hide out in rugs and shag. Be sure not to overlook any bites, especially if you see a few in a row. That’s generally a sign of bedbugs. The bites might itch, too, like mosquito bites.

If you’ve already spotted a bedbug on you, or have some suspicious bites, the best thing to do is to take immediate action. If you’re still traveling, alert the staff at your accommodation. They should resolve the situation for you immediately. If they refuse to do so, you should avoid touching any clean clothes until you leave, so that you can contain any bugs or eggs that travel with you. That’s why we recommend traveling with clothes in sealed plastic bags. You can prevent contamination, and make sure you have an outfit or two that will be safe should you run into an infestation.

Check yourself and your clothes regularly once you’ve left the infested area, and kill any live bugs you find. If possible, use laundry facilities at your hotel to wash and dry your luggage on high heat to kill bugs that try to come along for the ride.

Once you’re back, the key thing to do is isolate yourself. You don’t want to bring any bedbugs into your house, so try to keep any contaminated items contained. Place all your travel gear in a trash bag, and tie it tightly. Strip off as much as possible outside your house, check for any bugs, and then run to the shower. You’ll want to wash as thoroughly as possible. Once you’re safe and sound inside the house, it’s time to deal with luggage. It’s easiest in winter, since you can just leave your things outside in the trash bag to freeze, which usually kills off any straggling bugs. If it’s not cold enough outside, you should carefully bring everything indoors, still contained, and get it into the laundry as quickly as possible.

As for your luggage bags or cases, the only thing to do is use a steal cleaner, focusing extra hard on seams and pockets where bugs or larvae might be hiding.
In the worst case scenario, you notice bed bugs after you’re already home and unpacked. This is certainly more of a procedure, but don’t worry. You’ll just need to do everything we’ve already talked about, on a larger scale. You should wash and dry everything possible of your clothing and bedding, and steam the rest. Take the steam cleaner to town on your bed, especially around the seams and edges. Vacuum the whole house thoroughly, especially if you’ve got carpet. One way to kill any bugs in the carpets is to use diatomaceous earth, which is a fertilizer product that will actually desiccate their bodies, so you can vacuum up the husks. Sprinkle it around the carpet, and leave it for as long as possible (ideally, at least 12 hours), then vacuum it up again. Make sure to wear a mask, because the fine dust isn’t the best for your health. If you do a super careful, thorough job with all this the first time around, you will hopefully be done with your problem. However, the longer the bedbugs have been in your house, the more work it’ll take to get rid of them!

The key is to travel carefully, to minimize your exposure, to keep alert for any suspicious bites while you’re on the go, and to have a system for isolating your clothes and luggage when you return. Remember-it’s always better to be safe than sorry, so try not to travel with things that can’t be washed or steamed easily.

Wishing you safe and pest-free travels!

Air Travel 101: what you need to know to have the best plane journey possible.

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We get a lot of really specific questions about different aspects of air travel, but we thought today would be a great time to put together a few of our favorite tips into one general set of must-do’s for travelers who haven’t read every post we’ve ever written! These aren’t all our suggestions by any means, but they’re the key ones to remember when you’re traveling this season.

-use waterproof luggage: yeah, yeah, we know. Waterproof luggage can be super ugly. But rather than traveling with a priceless leather bag or something tweedy that will be ruined in the first rainshower, you’re better off making sure that at least your outer layer of luggage is waterproof. Trust us. We’ve seen so many people shocked that their laptops would never turn on again because they “figured” that their bags wouldn’t get that wet. Don’t mess around: go waterproof. And now that Patagonia and other brands have come out with some really nice-looking options, there’s no reason to feel guilty about bringing a bit more industrial protection to your luggage.

-bring packable clothing and plastic bags: you shouldn’t have to use your ziplock bags, but they’re your backup in case you get a case of bedbugs or end up with some particularly smelly items that you need to isolate (if you want to know more about bedbugs and how to get rid of them, we’ve written a special advice post on dealing with them, and how to get rid of a home infestation with a steam cleaner).

-to survive the restrictions on liquids, get a set of refillable bottles to store small amounts of shampoo, body wash, and mouthrinse. Instead of buying expensive “travel-size” bottles each time you need a refill, you can buy in bulk or in big bottles, keep some stock at home, and just refill as needed. You’ll save lots of money if you travel regularly, trust us.
-buy tickets as far in advance as possible: it might seem fairly obvious, but the further out you book your flights and hotels, the cheaper they’ll be. That’s especially true for flights! We recommend 3 months for domestic flights, and 5 months for international flights. Conversely, if you’re going to be traveling all of a sudden, it can sometimes be good to wait until the very last minute, since airlines slash prices to try and fill every seat (it’s good for their numbers, and it ends up being good for yours, too!). So, either buy way in advance, or right at the very last minute for the best pricing.

-if you’re a credit card user, get one with airline rewards: if you play your cards right, you shouldn’t ever end up paying the pretty high interest rates on these cards. Instead, use them for all your travel purchases, including flights, and then pay them off when you get back. You’ll rack up points in no time, and as we’ve mentioned many other times, credit cards are infinitely less risky abroad than debit cards. If you’re a frequent traveler, these airline cards really do make sense.

Safe travels!