Travel Gems for June 14th – 18th

Each Monday through Friday, a Travel Gem of the Day will be posted at These Travel Gems are tips that will help a traveler travel smarter, safer, handle home issues, be prepared and enjoy their journeys.

Here are last week’s Travel Gems:

Monday – Most of us sign up for the award programs for the hotels and airlines that we use the most, but we do not take the time to sign up for a hotel that we think we’re only going to stay in for a few nights or an airline that’s taking us on an international trip that is a once-in-a-lifetime. It would be great to know that from here on out, you are only flying this airline and staying in these hotels, but it is just not possible.

This is why I suggest signing up for every travel award program you come across, and start accruing points with your first use. Here are three reasons why:

1) You begin accruing points from your first flight, hotel stay or car rental.

2) The opportunity to use the same airline, hotel or car rental company in the future is high, especially with mergers and acquisitions consolidating the number of companies; and

3) Discounts and deals are sent to you via email, which can offer great savings on future travel. (If you’re worried about too many emails, set up a separate email account just for your travel accounts.)

What if you’ve recently traveled and had not signed up for the travel company’s award program? If you have your receipts or boarding pass, you still have a chance! Sign up now and send in a copy of the proof of your travel and request that the points be credited to your new account.

You never know where your travels may take you!

Tuesday – If you travel to the same city for work several weeks in a row, leave a bag at the hotel while you’re away. Hotels will give you a tag for your bag and place it in a secure closet or room. This will greatly lighten up the load of what you transport back and forth each week.

You can leave full-size liquids behind and have them ready for you upon your return. Also good for keeping your workout shoes, hair dryer and any other bulky items that you’d rather not travel home with each week. I leave my items in a small carry-on size bag. Have a name tag on the bag and a business card inside so that it’s easy to identify your bag.

What happens if you’re travels unexpectedly take you somewhere else? If you will not be back at your original hotel for a week or more, just let them know when to expect you. Other options include to have the hotel ship the bag to you, either to your home or next destination, or take it yourself.

I also leave dry cleaning with the hotel on the last day of my stay. I let them know that I’ll be back in a few days and I pick it up when I get back.

Wednesday – Want easier travel through US or Canadian Customs? Get a NEXUS card!

The NEXUS program is a way for eligible travelers to expedite their entrence into customs at any air, land, or sea port of the United States or Canada. You don’t even need to show your passport.

I miss my CLEAR program (it is still trying to recover and resume operation), but this is the next best thing for international travel between these countries. With NEXUS, you get your own lanes and answer fewer questions at customs. To get one, you have to pass the usual background checks pay a processing fee. An interview with a Customs official will follow, including a fingerprint and retinal scan. Once you are accepted, the card is good for the next five years.

If you are interested, you can apply online or call 1-866-NEXUS 26 (1-866-639-8726).

Thursday – When traveling in a car with a laptop, follow these safety tips:

Keep Your Laptop With You!

Do not leave the laptop visible when you leave your car – not even for a minute. Instead, take your laptop with you. Yes, it can be an extra burden to carry it into a restaurant or store, but this burden is easier to bear than replacing a stolen laptop.

If you do leave your laptop in the trunk of the car, avoid putting it in the trunk just prior to leaving your car—anyone watching knows it’s in there!

I’ve known several people who have had their laptops stolen from their cars even though they weren’t outright visible from within their laptop bags. It doesn’t matter if I only leave my car for a few minutes to run into a restaurant to pick up a meal … my laptop goes with me.

Avoid Projectile Laptops

While driving, keep your laptop in your laptop tote on the back seat of the car, preferably on the floor. This eliminates a laptop from being projected towards the dashboard (or towards you!) in the event of a sudden stop had it been sitting on the front passenger seat.

No Prolonged Exposure to Intense Heat and Cold

When you park your car outside in the summer, the temperature inside your car can reach 150 degrees Fahrenheit or more. Leaving a battery-powered device in your extremely hot car for more than about 2 hours can not only permanently shorten the battery’s life but also damage other parts, including the LCD screen, the plastic case, and the glue holding it together.

Friday – A fun travel souvenir for your kids is foreign currency. Bring home a few Euros, Pounds, Yen, Dirhams, etc. and help your kids start a collection. It’s a great learning project and it cleans out your wallet of the last of the foreign currency that would have been too expensive to convert back to your home currency.

A photo album or something with sleeves to hold the money works well for storing and documenting the currency collection. Label each coin with where it’s from and its denomination soon after your travels as trying to remember later is difficult. Often the writing on the coin is difficult to read.

Also teach your children about the value of the money and what it buys in its home country. For example, a $100 Hong Kong note was worth about $13 U.S. recently and that amount buys two Starbucks coffees and one bagel.


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