Travel Tips – Internet Travel Safety

01mbluter

2017 is the year for top travel tips on Mark’s Travel Journal. My goal is to provide countless tips for making the most out of your travelling in 2017 and beyond. So here is the first in the series – Internet Travel Safety.

There really is no such thing as total internet security while travelling (or not travelling for that matter). When you are travelling, and your connectivity options are limited to public networks, you are at even more risk. Smart travellers know that the small investment in a Virtual Private Network (VPN) service is the best way to keep their identities and private information protected, not to mention the added benefits of accessing blocked sites (U.S. NetFlix, etc.) and online shopping with minimal risk.

Not all VPNs are created equal! The team at reviews.com has looked into over 100 service optins for the fastest, most reliable, affordable and compatible across multiple devices. Check out their complete study and findings here: http://www.reviews.com/vpn/

Happy travels!

Airlines Are (Finally) Offering High-End Food

The post below was originally published on Hipmunk’s Tailwind Blog on January 21, 2016 by theHipmunk.

 

While some airlines have distinguished themselves with awesome in-flight entertainment options or stellar amenities in first, business, and economy class, for the most part airline food has failed to keep up with these new high-end innovations. Until now.

That’s right: Airlines are officially improving their menus, especially on domestic flights. From using fresh ingredients, to offering healthier options, to recruiting talented chefs to revamp their menus, airlines are going out of their way to make their food better, reports USA Today.

It’s hard to say exactly why airlines have suddenly started to up their food game, but odds are good that the increasing presence of higher-end eateries in airports and consumer pressure are big factors. Airlines are finding that better food options result in higher online ratings and can offer a competitive edge in a review-happy marketplace. Here’s how that translates into better options for you.

The Arrival of Better Food

Who benefits the most from improvements to airline food? Travelers, of course, in the form of fresher, more diverse, and more flavorful fare. Here’s an airline-by-airline preview of what hungry travelers can expect.

American Airlines

In an effort to provide healthier food options to passengers, American Airlines hasadded seasonal vegetables to its food options on several domestic, first-class flights. (The new dishes are inspired by restaurateur Sam Choy.) The airline is also in the process of revamping its first-class menus on other domestic flights by adding options like beef filet, shrimp and grits, and mac ‘n cheese. To top things off, American is featuring snacks from gourmet grocer Dean & Deluca—think raw almonds and spicy Cajun snack mix.

Alaska Airlines

In order to reflect and celebrate the airline’s home city of Seattle, Alaska Airlines now invites economy passengers to purchase Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches or othermulti-ethnic offerings during their flights. The airline has also recruited acclaimed chef Tom Douglas to develop its hot meals (which are available for sale on any flight longer than 2 ½ hours), and works to source local ingredients from its many destinations.

Delta Airlines

In November, Delta doubled the number of menu items offered to its first-class passengers on domestic flights. Entrée choices now include restaurant-worthy dishes such as grilled shrimp with roasted corn and tomato salad and lemongrass chicken with a Japanese Cobb salad. Delta is also upgrading its fare on transoceanic flights by introducing a seasonal rotation of menus influenced by various regions.

JetBlue

JetBlue is taking fresh in-flight food to a whole new level. The airline has gone so far as to open its own farm and garden at JFK’s Terminal Five, dubbed T5 Farm. The farm has been developed in partnership with GrowNYC, an NYC-based nonprofit that works to support the development of gardens and farmers markets throughout the city. The goal is for the farm to provide food that’s ultimately incorporated into the airline’s in-flight meal options, such as potato chips made from the farm’s own blue potatoes. In addition to potatoes, the farm will also grow herbs, leafy greens, carrots, and beets. If all goes according to plan, these items will make their way into JetBlue’s edible fare over the next few years.

United Airlines

United has decided to offer fancier menu items, such as roasted duck and flatiron steak, in its first-class cabins. The airline is also using cage-free eggs in its economy-class entrees on domestic flights (as well as on international flights that depart from airports in the U.S.), and it’s attempting to add more flavor to its lunch and dinner options for first- and business class customers by infusing dishes with spices and aromatic herbs. To top things off, the airline has started to serve food in first-class cabins on a larger number of flights (even those that don’t take place over traditional meal times).

In addition to their custom initiatives, many of these airlines have also begun offering a healthier paid food option to passengers in the form of snack boxes. Delta’s Eat Tapas, JetBlue’s Pump Up box, and United’s Tapas Snackbox all contain hummus, crackers, olives, and perhaps some nuts. The airlines then put their own twist on the tapas concept by adding in supplements like pepper and artichoke dip (Delta) or roasted fava beans (JetBlue).

It’s not only U.S. carriers that are getting in on the action. Take just two international examples: Aer Lingus allows its passengers to pre-order traditional foods and meals, including Irish Breakfast. And British Airways is committed to offering a fresh snack or meal on every flight within Europe.

So rest easy, travelers: Your plane ride is likely to come with better food options in the (very) near future.

How to Avoid Getting Sick on Your Next Flight

The post below was originally published on Hipmunk’s Tailwind Blog on January 22, 2016 by TheHipmunk.

Forget snakes on a plane. Worry about the germs. Research shows that air travelers are at a higher risk for infection than people going about their daily lives.

Just how are illnesses spread on a plane? It comes down to two main factors: Airborne germs that are easily inhaled by people sitting in close quarters, or contact with germ-riddled surfaces on the plane. These factors are exacerbated by the dry conditions typical of airplanes, because viruses prefer low-humidity environments.

The good news is that, for the most part, airplanes’ air filtration systems function well enough that you’re unlikely to contract more serious illnesses. Instead, your greatest risk is contracting the common cold or a classic case of the flu.

While that’s all well and good, it may be little comfort to people who don’t particularly want to have a cold or the flu while trying to enjoy their vacation. Luckily, it is possible to decrease your risk of infection from germs on a plane. Here’s how to maximize the chances of disembarking the plane as healthy as you boarded it.

Don’t travel if you’re already sick.

If you know that you’re suffering from a contagious illness, do your immune system (and your fellow passengers) a favor and don’t expose yourself to any more germs by boarding a plane. In particular, the CDC advises that people avoid plane travel if you’re more than 36 weeks pregnant, have recently had surgery, have had a recent (serious) injury, or have a fever. In each of these cases, you’ll be traveling with a compromised immune system, which increases your risk of catching a contagious infection. Some airlines may be lenient with rescheduling fees if you can prove that you’re sick; contact the airline to discuss your options.

Ask to switch seats.

If you find yourself beside someone who’s hacking or sniffling, it’s okay (really!) to ask a flight attendant if it’s possible to switch seats. Even moving just a few rows away can help protect you from a sick person’s germs. If there are no other seats on the plane, donning a face mask might help.

Wipe down germy surfaces.

Tray tables, armrests, and seat-back pockets are consistently found to be some of thegermiest parts of a plane. Minimize contact with these germs by using wet wipes to disinfect tray tables, armrests, and seat-back pockets and/or using hand sanitizer after touching any of these surfaces.

Wash your hands (a lot).

For the most part, your hands are your body’s primary point of contact with germy surfaces. Those germs (including cold and flu viruses) can survive on your skin for hours. The simple fix? Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or (in a pinch) with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Keep air vents open.

Circulating air is key to preventing the spread of illness on a plane, so keep the air vent above you open. And don’t worry—the air pumping through the vent is filtered and safe to breathe.

Bring your own blanket and pillow.

A Wall Street Journal investigation found that airlines tend to wash their blankets and pillows only every 5 to 30 days. (Yes, you read that right.) This means that when you borrow a blanket from the airline, you’re sharing a whole lot of germs. Avoid the issue entirely by bringing along your own travel blanket and pillow.

Close the toilet seat before you flush.

The spray that accompanies flushing spreads germs throughout the airplane bathroom; closing the lid before you flush will help you avoid contact with these nasty microorganisms. The flusher itself is also a hotbed of germs, so put a paper towel in between your hand and the flusher whenever you flush. And of course, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after using the loo.

Stay hydrated.

The high elevations and low humidity typical of airplane travel have a dehydrating effect, which can provoke headaches, stomach problems, cramps, and fatigue, and diminish your immune system’s ability to fight off infections. The simple solution? Stay hydrated by regularly sipping water before, during, and after your flight. It’s also a good idea to avoid alcohol and caffeine, which can contribute to dehydration.

There are a few caveats to this point, however. It’s best to avoid drinking the tap wateravailable on airplanes, because airplane tap water has consistently been found to contain levels of bacteria well above U.S. government limits. Opt for bottled water instead. For a similar reason, be sure to ask for drinks sans ice—since many planes refill their ice tanks at foreign airports, the water standards may not be up to par with what you’re used to.

Moisturize your nasal membranes.

Cabin air tends to dry out our nasal membranes, which are the immune system’s main line of defense against incoming germs. Keep your immune system functioning at optimal capacity by using a nasal mist or saline nasal spray during the flight.

While all the immune-boosting strategies in the world can’t guarantee your health with absolute certainty, practicing these behaviors on every flight will give you the best chance of making it through a plane ride with your immune system unscathed.