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!

The Insider’s Guide to Conquering Comic Con

The post below was originally published on Hipmunk’s Tailwind Blog on April 13, 2016 by TheHipmunk.

Another year, another multitude of Comic Cons to attend. Whether you’re hitting up the mother of all Cons in San Diego, cosplaying in NYC, or attending a smaller Comic Con in Grand Rapids or Amarillo, the following strategies will help ensure that you have a truly delightful time.

Buy tickets early.

Whenever possible, buy tickets online before the event. You’ll save money and avoid the heartbreak of arriving at Comic Con only to find out that the special event youneeded to see has already sold out.

Make a plan in advance.

There is so much to see at Comic Con, and it’s physically impossible to see it all. For this reason, it’s important to study the schedule and venue maps in advance so that you can plan out each day around your must-see events. If you want to see one of the major presentations (say, Game of Thrones in San Diego’s Hall H), keep in mind that you’ll need to budget in hours (and hours) of time for waiting in line. And because there are no guarantees that you’ll actually make it into the room you’re waiting in line to enter (especially because many venues don’t empty rooms after panels), it’s a good idea to have a backup plan (or several). One last tip: If you’re traveling with friends, remember to designate a meeting place before you split up for the day.

Bring cash.

Some vendors don’t accept credit cards, and ATM machines are few and far between. (And the ones that do exist are guaranteed to have insanely long lines). Spare yourself headaches and lost time by bringing plenty of cash with you to the venue.

Avoid parking (if possible).

It will come as no surprise that parking at Comic Con can be a major headache. In the rare cases that you do manage to find a spot near the venue, it’s likely it will cost you—some lots have been known to charge upwards of $50 per day. If at all possible, ditch the car and arrive at the venue via public transportation or on foot. If you must drive, be sure to arrive early in the day for the best chance at finding a spot.

Be social.

It’s a smart idea to download the venue’s app, which is an indispensable resource for navigating any Con. It can also be helpful to create a list on Twitter that includes the official Comic Con Twitter handle, any vendors that you want to see, and people whom you know will be present. Don’t underestimate how valuable real-time updates can be when you’ve been standing in line for three hours.

This tip also extends beyond the digital space. There are tons of great connections to be had at Comic Con, so don’t be shy about approaching people. Bonus: Chatting up fellow comics fans is a great way to pass the time while waiting in line. Which brings us to…

Prepare to wait.

We’ve mentioned that you’ll spend a lot of time waiting in line at Comic Con, right? We’re not kidding. Instead of hoping that it won’t happen to you, accept that it will—and then plan accordingly. Download podcasts to listen to, bring a book or journal, play games on your phone (just make sure it’s fully charged before Con), or simply settle in and enjoy the time to let your mind wander. Just remember to make sure you’re actually in the right line—sometimes lines bend and merge together, so check to be sure you aren’t wasting your time in the wrong place.

Practice self-care.

As always, you’ll be much more likely to enjoy yourself if you do what you can to avoid getting sick or burnt out. Stay hydrated, get enough sleep, wash your hands often, and pack healthy snacks—healthy food can be hard to come by at Cons, especially when you’re stuck waiting in line. Having snacks on hand can provide the blood sugar boost you need to continue having a great time.

Ask permission.

A common phrase heard round Con is that “Cosplay is Not Consent.” What this means is that just because someone is cosplaying (or simply present at Comic Con), that does not give you the right to touch them, harass them, or photograph them without their permission. If you want a picture, just ask—most people are more than happy to indulge. Be polite, keep your hands to yourself, and remember that everyone there is a human just like you.

Consider cybersecurity.

Wi-Fi is often available in most convention centers, but you’re likely to find that it’s painfully slow (or completely jammed) because of the sheer number of people trying to log on. You may see free networks available, but be cautious—some of these may be malicious. It’s a good idea to always practice good cyber-security strategies (even if this means you have to hold off on uploading photos to social media until you get home).

Above all else, remember to enjoy yourself. Though the lines may be long and your plans may change, the sheer number of interesting people and panels to see means that you’ll have a great time at Comic Con simply by going with the flow.

How to Enjoy Tokyo Without Going Broke

Tokyo1

It won’t be the bustling metropolitan that will be the first thing that will get to you in Japan, it will be the politeness of it’s people. They take more care of respecting their visitors than any other culture in the world and if for no other reason, you should visit Tokyo to learn a lesson in good manners.

But all that aside, Tokyo is a bustling metropolis center with so many different travel tastes to offer that I could spend months there and never feel like I have exhausted all the secrets of the capital city. From street markets to beautiful gardens breaking up the concrete jungle, it’s a beautiful place to just breath it all in. So take my tips for saving a little here and there that can make a budget trip feel more like a luxury holiday—it’s easy and won’t feel like skimping!  

Tokyo3

1. Choose Your Dates With Care

Like any travel hot spot, the time you decide to take your trip is critical and with Tokyo it’s no different and you can save a bundle if you go in the off-season. I personally prefer to travel when it’s off-season anyway because it means getting to take my time visiting the big things and fewer lines to get into the hot spots.

When it comes to Tokyo, spring means cherry blossoms and makes April and May really busy times to be in the city, as well as the end of summer, and around the holidays for Christmas and New Years, so if you want to make a go of it without the huge prices, go on an unassuming week in October, November, February, or March—it’s the best way to see your money stretch a little further.

Tokyo8

2. Take Public Transport

There’s no denying that taking the subway in Tokyo is an adventure all on its own; with many different lines, crazy rush hours, and more, it’s a no-brainer that you have to have your wits about you as you grab the Ginza line at Omote-sando Station.

But the other no-brainer is that there’s no better, or cheaper, way to get around the city, so grab a map and practice your breathing exercises; it might take a few times to get used to the sardine like conditions if you hit morning traffic from Nakano to Shinjuku or from Kawasaki to Shinagawa.The Pasmo Card is the rechargeable version of the Tokyo Subway ticket system, or you can get passes for specific routes all along the way and it’s much cheaper than taking a taxi anywhere, especially in a city sprawl that means you can’t walk everywhere you need to go.  

Tokyo6

3. Eat, Stay, & Play In A Neighborhood

Tokyo is full of picturesque areas and if you’re going to save a couple of dollars here and there, stay in a place outside of Shinjuku or Harajuku, which will be big cosmopolitan areas that will have the highest prices. My favorite place to stay in is Shibuya and travellers benefit from the great nightlife that surrounds the student and young office worker neighborhood. Its got the “Times Square of Tokyo” location and is close to other big areas so it makes grabbing a train ride to the neighboring district is no big deal.

Tokyo

I also suggest to look for alternative ways of sleeping: home shares, hostels, Airbnb, and if you’re travelling solo and want a unique take from a local, couchsurfing. Hotels can be expensive in prominent areas, and the share economies in Tokyo are also helpful for getting a bird’s eye look at the local goodies—hosts are always great resources for good finds and it’s good for the finances as well.

Pro-tip: In Tokyo there are really cool, really cheap ways of travelling if you’re trying to cut on spending and they’re called capsule hotels. With just enough space to sleep, and freebies like personal televisions, spots to lock up your stuff, and shared bathroom facilities, it’s for people who like hostels but are light sleepers and prefer to have their own space. But be warned, it’s not for the claustrophobic! Also, if you book using a Japanese site, you’ll get a better price.  

4. Buy A Local SIM Card

My personal money saving tip for most travel destinations is to let go of your cell provider’s international plan and opt for a local SIM card instead. I have an extensive collection with the tiny tech cards from all over the world to prove it, because not only does it save you money in roaming charges, but you also get cheap rates and great bars because you’re tapping into the local providers. What’s better than that?

The first thing I do when I arrive at the airport (or train station, or bus station) is immediately make my way to a cell phone station to purchase the card. Not only will the cards be cheap here and you can get started being connected immediately, you can have the employees help you install. If you grab it at a convenient store and want to do it yourself though, it’s really easy. Just pop open your phone, put in the card, and viola! If you have any trouble getting your phone to start, you might need to unlock it first, but most phones come already unlocked and you can skip this step.  

And the best part is that using a SIM doesn’t interrupt your regular service, so no need for extra hassle or price hikes—it’s a do-it-yourself that will save you and it’s easy.

5. Use Your Credit Cards

While it’s never a bad idea to have a little cash with you wherever you go, I do think it’s a much better system to travel with cards rather than a wad of cash. The charge per transaction from your bank or credit provider is going to be anywhere from 3%-5%, which is going to be a lot cheaper than the price of commission at a exchange center. Not only will exchange places totally rip you off (and doing it at home with your bank requires a lot of planning) but many credit cards offer reward programs for flights, meals, hotels, and more, when you use them abroad so you can get cashback on coupon deals for the next time you travel while you’re abroad.

Also, it’s a great way to keep track of your expenses and doesn’t require that you save all of your receipts. All it takes is one call to your credit card company to make sure they don’t put a hold on your account (I usually authorize a region, just in case I’ll decide on a day trip around) to get started.

Tokyo7

6. Be Judicious With Your Souvenirs

I’m already one to be totally against the bad practices of tourist traps that sell Bangladesh made goods in Paris (like shot glasses and desktop Eiffel Towers), but it will save you a lot of money if you make some smart choices. There are some really great buys, like Kokeshi dolls, that will make you want to throw down the yens.

First, I’m a big fan of Ink Cards and Postagram, two apps that change your photographs into beautiful postcards that can be sent internationally right from your phone, as well as Social Print Studio’s square magnets that make great souvenirs that mean you aren’t carrying around presents in your limited space.

My other souvenir tip is to get small things that represent Japan but won’t be found in the shops—chopsticks, packets of ramen noodles, and stamped subway tickets are great little trinkets that can save big in the long run but also have a personal touch of Tokyo.  

7. Eat Street

Sushi in Tokyo is beyond amazing, and if you’re a lover of the American or European Japanese sushi, let me tell you something: you know nothing. In Japan, there’s no spicy mayo on anything, just fresh fish, sticky rice, and perfect ingredients all around. And that’s why at least one meal you need to make a stop a verified institution for some great Tokyo cuisine. But this is not a wallet-friendly adventure, and the rest of the time, you should definitely save with cheap eats because not only are they good for the budget but they’re delicious as well.

Tokyo5

Supermarkets, street food stands, convenient store, and even ticket machine restaurants can make for a delicious meal that can counteract the fact you dropped a lot of money at dinner Sukiyabashi Jiro because you watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi on Netflix too many times not to.

Tokyo4

Whether you’re headed for the Harajuku fashion, the Shinjuku vibes or the serene temple gardens, Tokyo is a place that everyone should visit at least once in their lives and with a little smart navigating, it can be a trip that everyone can take as well, no matter the budget. So book your flight and get to packing, Tokyo is calling!

Bon voyage!

This post was written by Claire Lovesti; traveler and chief blogger at www.traveltio.com.

All images via shutterstock