Solo Female Travel in Latin America – Safety Tips For Women

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A common question seen on many travel forums is "how safe is it to travel to X (one on the Latin American countries) as a solo female traveler?" It is fully understandable why traveling alone to Latin America can seem an intimidating prospect, particularly if you are a woman. However, women who have already been to this region of the world know there is no need to post this type of question. All of the countries in Central and South America are generally safe to visit as a solo female traveler. There are, however, some areas that pose a risk and these should be avoided.

Many of the large cities in Latin America have areas that aren't particularly desirable and you should stick to the main tourist or modern parts of these cities if you visit them. This includes all of the major cities in Central America (ie Belize City, Guatemala City, Managua, Mexico City, Panama City, San Jose, San Salvador and Tegucigalpa). There are also certain parts of South American cities that should be avoided such as Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, and Sao Paulo in Brazil, and Caracas in Venezuela. As with the large cities in Central America, stick to the touristy areas and you'll be fine. You should also take care when visiting particular areas of certain countries such as in Colombia and Venezuela. For example, it isn't a good idea to hang around the border regions of Colombia or travel to obscure, off the beaten track destinations. Although Colombia and Venezuela get some bad press they are both relatively safe to visit if you stick to the top tourist destinations mentioned in reputable travel guides. If somewhere is mentioned in a reputable guidebook, it is almost certainly safe to visit.

This leads to an important point in the discussion. It is very easy to get paranoid about visiting certain countries and cities but this is totally unwarranted. Remember, it's only certain parts of these countries and cities that are best avoided, just as certain parts of cities in Europe or North America are best avoided. In fact, traveling around most of Latin America is far safer, and more pleasant, than traveling around many parts of Europe or North America. Additionally, as Susan Griffith rightly points out in 'Traveling Solo as a Woman in Asia' 'there is a pernicious mythology surrounding the lone female traveler, whether it is as a hitchhiker around Britain or a traveler in Southeast Asia. perils and dwell on a single woman's vulnerability. Often this doom-ridden response is just an excuse for their own timidity of spirit. " Don't get paranoid: the countries of Latin America are no more dangerous than many other countries in this world, and in reality you are more likely to encounter problems in some European countries or North American states.

Referring back to the classic question seen on travel forums (ie how safe is it to travel to X as a solo female traveler) it is worth mentioning the …

Frugal Travel Tips For Road Trips

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What better way for the frugal traveler to stretch both her budget and her vacation allotment than by taking road trips during long weekends? Here are some of my top tips to reduce that cost even more.

Keeping The Cooler Cool

Packing an accessible cooler full of drinks and snacks is a great cost reducing option. To maximize cooler space, instead of filling with ice, freeze water bottles and low filled beverages (including drinking boxes, makes a healthier juice slushy). No more soggy sandwiches or spilled water in the backseat.

Eating Where The Truckers Eat

For longer road trips, travelers may have to look outside the cooler for a meal. Instead of haunting the usual fast food chains, keep an eye out for any local roadside restaurants with transport trucks parked outside. When truckers find a spot with good, affordable meals, they tell their buddies.

Note: Just because the sign says truck stop, doesn’t mean the truckers stop. The vehicles never lie.

Keeping The Kiddies Entertained

This is a trick I’ve stolen from my Mom. Whenever we went on a long road trip, she would dig out the coloring books and crayons. That may not seem exciting except it was…to us. During a road trip was the only time we were allowed a new coloring book.

Updated for today’s kid, keep a few toys or video games only for use on road trips. This could be a brand new toy or a favorite. The novelty of the toy will keep kids busy and looking forward to the long car rides.

Prepping The Vehicle

Road trips mean relying on your vehicle so prep work is essential. Check all fluids, oil, antifreeze/coolant, windshield washer solvent (for the bugs all road trip vehicles collect). Check the tires, ensuring that they are properly inflated and in good condition. Check all belts and hoses, looking for wear and tear.

AAA Or Other Vehicle Assistance Programs

Frequent road trippers should consider an AAA or other vehicle assistance program membership, especially if they have an older vehicle. One tow and the membership pays for itself. Plus no scrambling for local mechanics/tow trucks.

One of the benefits that I love about AAA is their TripTiks which are route maps complete with information such as road works (very helpful during the summer road work season) and rest stops. There are even blurbs on each town passed.

Road trips are a great way to see more local destinations and to stretch the travel budget.

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Business Travel Tips!

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When you travel the world around you, it changes the world within you. That was one of my quotes a few years ago from my travel blog when I was blogging the World Tour. It holds true to this day, in my opinion.

I have traveled a lot these past 3 months, in particular, and am often asked how I do it. How do I maintain my energy, my focus, my connections, my health. So here are my best travel tips – try them, you'll like them.

TIP # 1 – MAINTAIN REGULAR SLEEP HABITS. This is normal for me, anyway, whether I am traveling or not. But when I am on the road, it is critical for me to get my sleep. I adjust to the time zone I am in and go with it. I ensure the room is dark, cool, quiet and normally, when at conferences, for example, I always room alone. I know that many people find great joy sharing a room when attending events. That doesn't work for me because I get enough stimulation during the business days and meetings – I don't need the additional stimulation of someone in my room wanting to de-brief for the next few hours. It's my down time so that I can get mentally ready for a restful sleep. That also means limited electronics or TV.

TIP # 2 – GET REGULAR EXERCISE. These days, that can mean just counting your steps in the airports – they are so HUGE! It takes a lot of time and a lot of steps to get around. I hired a personal trainer this year and, when I am at home, it makes a huge difference. When I am on the road, I stay accountable, get my exercise and post photos for my trainer so I show evidence of my commitment. At a minimum, I do some Yoga moves which helps with stretching after long plane rides. I bring my exercise DVD with me, too – me and jillian Roberts – look out world!

TIP # 3 – I MAKE GOOD FOOD CHOICES. There's not really any reason to look at a menu when I travel. I know what I regularly eat for breakfast, lunch and supper – now, remember my 80/20 rule. When I am somewhere special (like in Africa – I WILL have the chocolate croissants … just sayin '!) – I will try different foods. But for normal travel – I stick with my regular food choices – and rarely will I have a drink when I am on the road. It ruins my sleep. I know it. So why do it?

TIP # 4: I KEEP MY GRATITUDE JOURNAL. Next to my exercise clothes, my Gratitude Journal is the one thing that goes in the suitcase. It IS when I travel, that I realize and recognize what a blessed life I live and I want to keep my attitude of gratitude.

TIP # 5: KEEP A SENSE OF HUMOR.

Travel Tips That Will Help Make a Travel Trip Smoother

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You finally have some vacation days, which means you can go somewhere for a few days and relax without having to worry about work. Are you excited? While people are excited about traveling, they also feel a bit apprehensive because it can also be a hassle. However, it is essential to remember that this only happens when you don’t plan properly and take advantage of the benefits that technology can offer you these days. If you want to make your trip as smooth as possible, here are some excellent travel tips that can come in handy:

Get organized early on

Staying organized is one of the best ways to prevent any last-minute problems and fiascos. When you have made up your mind to go somewhere, you should inform your credit card company or bank about it so that you don’t face any payment issues. The next step is to take a look at your travel documents before flying because you want to ensure everything is up to date. This includes checking to see if you have a valid visa for every destination that’s part of your flight itinerary. If you find a problem at the eleventh hour, you may have to cancel your plans.

Take advantage of the tech

There is no denying that technology has simplified everything, which includes traveling. Gone are the days when you had to go in blind to a new place because you can now check out everything beforehand thanks to technology. You can find a wide array of travel apps that can turn out to be immensely useful, which include maps that can help you in getting around the new city and finding places. Likewise, there are also apps that enable you to get real-time flight updates, weather conditions and even find your restaurants according to your dietary requirements.

Opt for pre-booking where possible

It is recommended that you tick off as many things as possible from your list to avoid any issues. Again, technology plays a role here because you can now check out vacation rental websites for booking your accommodation, car hiring websites to hire a car for picking you up from the airport and similar other tasks. This can enable you to save a lot of your valuable time and keep the pressure off so you can stay stress-free.

Avoid the rush

If you are going on a vacation instead of a business trip, you want to be as relaxed as possible in order to enjoy. This can only happen if you give yourself time to make it to the airport and go through security. You can make use of GPS in this situation for checking your estimated travel time and even mark the route that can get you there quickest.

Be ready for security

If you have traveled before, you know the ins and outs of security. It is best to place your keys, jewelry and small electronic devices in your carry-on luggage as it can save time. You don’t …

Frugal Travel Tips For Las Vegas Attractions

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I don’t gamble so I often get asked why I visit Las Vegas at least once a year. The answer? The free attractions make Las Vegas a frugal traveler’s paradise (and we’ll save the dining discussion for another article). Almost every casino has some sort of freebie gimmick to attract gamblers. In this article, I will cover, what I consider to be the must-see’s to give tourists a flavor of Las Vegas.

The Fountain Show At Bellagio

With nightfall comes the fountain shows at Bellagio. In the massive pool of water on the Strip side of the casino, illuminated spirts of water dance to a variety of music, popular, classical and even opera. They usually operate every 15 minutes (check with the casino to ensure), with a different song and show each time.

Sirens Of TI

Every night, in front of Treasure Island on the Strip, a battle takes place between sexy sirens and renegade male pirates. There are usually four identical kid friendly shows nightly. Get there early for best viewing (especially if you are vertically challenged). Stand close and you could get a bit wet.

Circus Circus Shows

Approximately every half hour in the Circus Circus casino on the Strip, there are free yet world class midway acts including jugglers and trapeze acts. I stayed for three shows and all three were different.

Freemont Street Experience

Las Vegas is more than the Strip. Situated in the heart of downtown, the historic Freemont Street Experience is a pedestrian walkway, covered by what they bill as the biggest big screen on the planet. There are street performers, vendors and every night at multiple times, a light and sound show.

Ethel M’s Chocolate Tour And Botanical Cactus Garden

Want to get away from the Strip yet do something free? Check out the Ethel M Chocolate Factory (One Sunset Way). A must for chocolate connoisseurs (I have purchased chocolate from all over the world for my Mom, her favorite is Ethel M’s), there is a self guided tour, free samples, and products for sale.

Outside there is the Botanical Cactus Garden with over 350 kinds of cacti, succulents from the local area and around the world (also free admission).

Note: There is an Ethel M’s at the airport if you are concerned about chocolate melting (check hours of operation as every time I go, its closed).

There are many, many other free attractions in Las Vegas. Attractions that are changed often to ensure the city remains fresh, exciting and a frugal traveler’s paradise.

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Frugal Travel Tips For Cruises

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Cruises are one of my favorite ways to see the world. I love falling asleep in one country and waking up in another, not having to pack and unpack. Cruise lines run the range of prices from value to super expensive. For frugal travelers, here are some tips to cut expenses.

Consider All Itineraries

When most people think of cruises, they think of the Caribbean, the Mediterrian, and perhaps Alaska. However, name an ocean port and there is likely a cruise sailing into it. And some of these itineraries can not be only bargains but a pleasant surprise. We once booked a 12 day Baltic cruise from London to St. Petersburg and return for less than the airfare from New York to London. It remains one of our favorite cruises.

Bring Your Own Non-Alcoholic Drinks

Food is normally included in the price of a cruise (except for dining at the exclusive restaurants). However, beverage other than water, coffee, tea, and if lucky iced tea come with an additional cost. So what we do is buy non-alcoholic beverages in ports (allowable – for alcoholic drinks, there is often a corking charge) and then pour them into glasses.

Make Your Own Tour

We’ve been on over a dozen cruises all over the world and have only done one ship organized tour (on our first cruise). They are expensive, move forward at the pace of the slowest traveler, and restrictive. For a well organized traveler, making their own arrangements is preferable.

One trick that we use is to look at the sights the ship tours cover and include those in our “tour.”

Note: Tour Directors will often tell of horror stories about passengers not getting back to the ship on time. The solution? Leave some extra time and do the far away venues first.

Big Breakfast, Late Dinner

For the frugal traveler, maximizing the time in port is a must. That means if possible choosing the late seating at dinner. Also we tend not to eat large lunches (if at all). Instead we eat a large breakfast on the ship (where the breakfast is free), snack on bits and bites of local food while on shore, and then top the day off with a leisurely late dinner.

Cruising is one of the favorite ways for this frugal traveler to see the world. And by using these tips, it is one luxury that can fit into a traveler’s budget.

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Tips For Pet Friendly Travel Accommodations

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According to research, over half of Americans consider their pet part of the family. So, it’s no surprise when you want to bring your fun loving fur friend with you while traveling. To make your quest easier on everyone, we recommend following the steps below. It will help guarantee that you will enjoy a leisurely vacation with your loved ones.

Step One: Ask Questions

When calling hotel chains or state cabins, be sure to ask multiple questions regarding their pet policy. Many of these policies will have multiple rules in place. For example, they will allow a small pet or dog. However, the pet cannot exceed a certain weight limit. Some hotel chains will even have a rule such as pets are only allowed in carriers, etc. The hotel manager should be able to answer your questions over the phone, but it is always a good idea to request a hard copy. They can e-mail or fax you the information.

Step Two: Check Room Capabilities

You may want to check what the room amenities are, regardless if you are staying in a pet friendly cabin or hotel. If your pet has special diet needs, you may need a stove or refrigerator. It is also a good idea to find out if there are trails or pet friendly parks nearby. That way you will be able to give your pet much needed exercise.

Step Three: Find Out If It’s Really Pet Friendly

When traveling with pets you will quickly learn that there is a difference between pet friendly lodging and tolerant lodging. A pet friendly cabin or hotel will provide easy clean up surfaces, doggie bags, and some will even offer treats. Most of these locations will also allow your pet to run loose in the room while pet tolerant lodging will only allow them inside a certain square footage.

Step Four: Gear Up For Your Pet Travel Needs

When taking a trip with pet in tow, remember that they will have special travel needs. You may want to pad their kennel with pillows or towels so that they are comfortable. You may also want to take along extra bags for accidents, treats, and small trays to pour water in while stopping for a break.

These are all easy to follow trips so that your upcoming vacation will be one to remember. Your pet will thank you with better behavior as well.

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Frugal Travel Tips For Chicago

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Chicago offers many free attractions for the frugal traveler. These free sights offset more costly splurges like deep dish pizza, the entrance to the famed Shedd Aquarium, and a trip up the Sears Tower.

Free Trolleys

From Memorial Day weekend through the Labor Day weekend, between 10am and 6pm, free trolleys operate every 20-30 minutes to Chicago’s most popular tourist destinations. There are stops along Museum Campus, Michigan Avenue (The Magnificent Mile) and Navy Pier. Do a few of the loops to get a sense of the city. Drivers often give out bits of information about landmarks.

Street parking downtown is often free on Sundays.

Buckingham Fountain, Grant Park, and Millennium Park

Buckingham Fountain (seen in the opening credits of the tv show Married With Children) in Grant Park, close to the waterfront, was designed to emulate the great fountains in the palace of Versailles. It consists of three basins, surrounded by four bronze seahorses.

More modern art can be found in the adjoining Millennium Park. The Crown Fountain has two giant glass towers with projections of faces on them. Water squirts out of the faces’ mouths, much to wading children’s delight. Cloud Gate resembles a giant stainless steel jellybean, warping the reflection of onlookers.

Navy Pier

Navy Pier hosts a street carnival type of environment. There is a classic styled 148 ft Ferris Wheel, a musical carousel with painted animals, a children’s museum, a museum of stained glass, and a funhouse maze. Add seasonal street performers, food vendors, and face painters, and travelers can people watch for hours.

The Old Water Tower

The Old Water Tower, situated on the famed Michigan Avenue near the John Hancock Center, is one of the most famous survivors of the Great Fire. Designed to resemble a tiny European castle, the Old Water Tower is now a visitors center.

The Art Institute Of Chicago

With great American masterpieces like Grant Wood’s American Gothic, the Art Institute Of Chicago is a must see for art lovers and a freebie for the savvy traveler. From May 31st to August 31st, admission is free after 5pm on Thursday’s and Friday’s.

There are many other free or frugal attractions in the Windy City, window shopping on the Magnificent Mile, facades such as Dearborn Street Station and others.

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5 Travel Tips to Save on Your Next Vacation

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Traveling to a new destination for a vacation can be fun and exciting, but also a little stressful. There are plenty of things to consider in the process of planning the travel itinerary and finding the best possible deals. Let’s take a look at a few of the options to help control costs on your next travel adventure:

Travel off-season

A simple solution to get the best prices on travel and the hotel is to travel off-season (also referred to as low season). Beyond the best prices for flights and a luxury hotel or resort, there will be a lot less crowds to interrupt the sightseeing tours. For instance, a trip to Europe can be delayed until September for the low-cost travel experience and the weather is still quite favorable in most parts.

Be flexible with flights

An indirect flight can take longer to arrive at the intended destination, but a flight with a stopover often leads to the most cost-effective travel option. Also, the day you fly can have a noticeable impact on the price. In most cases, a midweek flight will save a lot of money for a family vacation compared to flying at the weekend. Simply making a few minor changes like this can save literally hundreds of dollars.

Avoid high baggage fees

Make sure to weigh the luggage before leaving home to avoid the often over-inflated charges associated with exceeding the baggage limit.

If any extra items are left over with no space in the main luggage, there are plenty of ways to get creative by using a decent hand-luggage bag or even a luggage jacket. A stylish and practical luggage jacket is much like a normal jacket, but gives the extra room to conveniently pack in a few extra items to help control baggage charges.

Avoid the most popular places

A simple strategy to cut costs is to avoid the most popular places. For instance, a European city like Paris can be so expensive, but there are other great alternatives that can be just as charming, such as Athens and Budapest. Alternatively, a trip to Costa Rica is typically quite pricey, but a neighboring country like Nicaragua may be a more attractive option.

Book last-minute

Booking last-minute can help to score a great deal in certain areas of the travel market. While it isn’t likely to be helpful with airfare costs, there are plenty of tours and cruises that give great discounts if able to leave things very late. An empty ship or tour is never a good thing, so these companies will do whatever is necessary to bring in extra customers. Typically, the booking needs to be left until one or two weeks before the departure date to get the price discounts.

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Travel Tips for the Deaf and Mute

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A well-planned trip can go awry at any time due to miscommunication. While travel issues can easily arise even when a traveler believes that he or she has taken care of every aspect of the trip, these issues may be a bigger challenge to those who have inherent communication problems due to speech and/or hearing impairment. However, do not let the daunting travel stories of deaf and mute people discourage you.

You can plan a dream holiday alone or with your near and dear ones simply by planning a few months in advance and keeping a few important pointers in mind. Most of the travel tips for deaf and mute provided in this article are just common sense. To begin with, you need to decide about your travel destination. You can choose to go to any place you wish to visit and enjoy a memorable holiday experience as long as you plan it well.

Selecting the hotel

Once you have picked a location for your travel, you need to make your hotel reservations. This requires doing your homework well. You need to find the top disabled-friendly hotels in the place of your visit and check the list of facilities and services that they offer for the physically challenged. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) that was passed in 1990, hotel accessibility should comprise a number of facilities fordeaf and mute guests as well. These include visual alert devices for various in-room amenities such as telephones, alarm clocks, and fire alarms.

Since hearing impairment is an invisible disability, you need to tell people about it to make them aware of the same. You need to do the same while booking a room in a hotel. You should mail the hotel manager, intimating him or her about your disability and requesting him or her to provide you detailed information about the special facilities available such as TDD units and closed-caption televisions in the room.

It is highly recommended that you choose to stay in a room on the ground floor, so that you can get out quickly in case of an emergency. In addition to that, you should ask the manager about the check in and checkout times at the time of making a booking and request the manager to mail you the booking confirmation code on your email id. In addition to that, you can request the manager for any special assistance that you may require during your stay in the hotel.

Flight tickets and traveling arrangements

It is extremely important that you inform the flight reservation person about your hearing impairment at the time of booking your tickets. This way he or she can arrange for a person who knows sign language in case those services are required any time during security check or boarding the flight. Most top airlines offer TDD service that allows deaf and mute passengers to communicate with others via text messages that they type on a keyboard. Keep these tips in …