My travel blog

5 ways to make college tours more fun

Some people view college tours as a chore — an obligatory part of sending a child into adulthood — but they don’t have to be.

Here are five things to do to make them more fun — during the heat of summer or any time of year.

This is an update to a blog post I wrote last year, after visiting five California universities with my niece. This post focuses on my observations from five recent university tours (in Colorado, Idaho and Washington) with my nephew.

1. Local food: Some universities, especially land grant schools with large agricultural programs, may offer products made on campus and/or made with ingredients grown by students. A visit to Washington State University in Pullman, Wash., is not complete without a stop at Ferdinand’s Ice Cream Shoppe on campus. Ice cream flavors, including Caramel Cashew, Huckleberry Twist and Cougar Tracks, are made with campus products.

This single-serving bowl of two flavors — Huckleberry Twist and Caramel Cashew — cost $2.20 at Ferdinand’s. (Photo by Sheryl Jean)

Ferdinand’s also sells WSU’s cheese in a can, with the most popular being Cougar Gold. That stemmed from WSU research in the 1940s to find a way to store cheese in tins. At least 10 years later, the creamery began making milk and ice cream products for students. Today, Ferdinand’s is open to the public.

Off college campuses, try regional products at restaurants, such as a lentil burger (Paradise Creek Brewery) in Pullman, Wash., or dried garbanzo beans (Nectar and Lodgepole) in Moscow, Idaho (home of the University of Idaho). Lentils and garbanzos are grown in the surrounding beautiful Palouse area.

2. Local activities: Find out what a town or area is known for and do it. Look for activities that interest you. Is there a bicycle trail, such as the Bill Chipman Palouse Trail between the University of Idaho in Moscow and Washington State University in Pullman, a climbing wall or community theater? Research can be done beforehand or on the fly via an Internet search, a stop at the local visitor center or asking a local.

Cyclists ride by golden fields of wheat on the 8-mile (one way) Bill Chipman Palouse Trail between Moscow, Idaho, and Pullman, Wash. (Photo by Sheryl Jean)

3. Bookstores: College towns still have quirky brick-and-mortar bookstores. Boulder, Colo., has at least a half dozen. Not only are they cool places to hang out, but they usually have a local or regional section to learn about the area and culture or find local authors.

Don’t forget to check out campus bookstores, too. Some schools include a coupon in their information packet (it was 20% off at the University of Idaho and Washington State University). It might be a good opportunity to load up on gear from your favorite school or sports team. They also have a good selection of new books, including books by their professors.

4. Museums: Still on my list from last year is to find campus museums, a trend in recent decades helped by alumni funding. When I recently visited Washington State University’s small and manageable Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art, it offered engaging works by Louise Bourgeois, Jacob Lawrence and Robert Rauschenberg. In Golden, Colo., the Colorado School of Mines’ Geology Museum is a find for gem and rock lovers; it has two moon rocks. The University of Colorado Boulder has the Museum of Natural History and the University of Oregon in Eugene, Ore., has the Museum of Natural and Cultural History.

These are just some of the minerals, gems and fossils displayed at the Geology Museum at the Colorado School of Mines in Golden, Colo. (Photo by Sheryl Jean)

5. Explore the town or city. Some college campuses dominate their small host towns, others are located in or near big cities, such as Boston or Seattle. Take the time to walk, bicycle or drive around the town or city closest to campus to see what it has to offer. Eat, shop or watch a movie. Stay overnight if you can to get a true cultural immersion.

Here’s a related tweet from Wednesday, Aug. 7, about five college trends I’ve noticed while on 10 university tours in four states in the last year:

The featured photo at top by me is art by Louise Bourgeois at Washington State University’s Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art.

Opening soon: SFO Airport’s new Harvey Milk Terminal 1 will achieve some firsts

When the new Harvey Milk Terminal 1 at San Francisco International Airport (SFO) opens on July 23, its claim to fame will be that it’s the world’s first airport terminal named for an LGBTQ leader.

Quote box for SFO Community Day
(Sheryl Jean with Quozio)

Milk became California’s first openly gay elected official — to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. Fellow city supervisor Dan assassinated Milk and Mayor George Moscone on Nov. 27, 1978.

A temporary exhibit — a 400-foot wall chronicling Milk’s life called “Harvey Milk: Messenger of Hope” — will greet visitors to the new terminal. A longer-term exhibit featuring 40 historic images of Milk will open in March 2020, when the second phase of the terminal is slated to open.

You can get a free sneak peek of the new terminal (see box above), but you must register for a time-specific ticket.

SFO Grand Hyatt
The AirTrain will link travelers from the new Harvey Milk Terminal 1 to the San Francisco International Airport’s first on-site hotel — the four-star, 351-room Grand Hyatt at SFO — when it opens. (Courtesy of San Francisco International Airport)

The terminal will feature the airport’s first on-site hotel — the four-star, 351-room Grand Hyatt at SFO — though it won’t open until the fall. The hotel, which is taking reservations for Oct. 1 and beyond, also will offer microstays at day-use rates for travelers with long daytime layovers or those who need a nap or shower.

SFO will be the first U.S. airport to use a new tote-based system called Independent Carrier System (ICS) to handle checked baggage in the new terminal. A bag is placed in a container at check-in and remains in the same bin through security screening to loading, with tracking along the way.

The $2.4 billion terminal is the first phase of the redevelopment of one of SFO’s oldest terminals, dating to the 1960s. Terminal 1 has nine of the 25 gates planned when the entire project is expected to be finished in 2022.

Here are some other interesting features the new terminal will offer:

  • A yoga room (see photo below)
  • A Kids Spot interactive play area
  • A gender-neutral restroom and a pet restroom (after security screening).
  • Technology: Free hi-speed Wi-Fi and hundreds of power outlets
  • Art: Look for 30 pieces of art, ranging from a sculpture by Mark Handford, mosaics by Jason Jägel and Robert Minervini, and installations by Leonardo Drew and Liz Glynn.
  • Retail: There will be six new food and beverage concessions: Amy’s Drive Thru, Bourbon Pub, Bun Mee, Little Chihuahua and Starbird (all regional) as well as Illy Caffé. Three retail outlets will be iStore, Mills Cargo and Skyline News.
  • Sustainability: Roof-top solar panels will provide renewable power and many of the terminal’s features save energy, such as elevators that recycle energy, radiant heating and cooling, dimmable lights and windows that tint based on the light condition.
SFO Yoga Room
The new terminal will feature a yoga room for travelers to stretch and destress. (Courtesy of San Francisco International Airport)

The featured photo at top is of SFO’s air traffic control tower lit in rainbow colors for Pride Week. (Courtesy of San Francisco International Airport)

 

Did you know Australia offers hiking from historic hut to hut?

When you think of the hut-to-hut hikes, places like the U.S. Appalachian Trail, Switzerland and Ireland probably come to mind.

Add Australia to that list. The country offers several hut networks for hikers (and skiers).

Among Australia’s huts are some 200 historic huts, with some being more than 150 years old. Cattlemen, gold miners, lumberjacks, skiers and bushwalkers built the huts for shelter in often harsh and isolated conditions. Aboriginal Australians even used some huts as camp sites.

The historic huts, which have been restored and preserved, are for temporary use — to be slept in only during emergencies. But you can hang out, get warm and cook in the huts, which typically come with a set of rules and etiquette. (See some basic hut rules at the end of this post.) In Victoria, some huts are not available for public use.

Huts are typically made of wood or iron sheeting and always are unlocked and stocked with matches and some firewood. Here’s a sampling of Australia’s historic huts:

Inside Wallace Hut (Sheryl Jean)
Peek inside historic Wallace Hut to see the names of cattlemen and others who first used it burnt into the roof beams. (Sheryl Jean)

Wallace Hut, Alpine National Park, Victoria

Many huts have burned during wildfires, but Wallace Hut survived. Overall, Alpine National Park has 106 huts, including nearly 60 historic huts.

Wallace Hut is the oldest in Alpine National Park, which has 106 huts, including nearly 60 historic ones. Three brothers — Arthur, William and Stewart Wallace built Wallace Hut by hand from snow gum slabs in 1889. The Wallaces grazed their cattle on the High Plains from 1869 to 1914.

You can’t enter the cattleman’s hut, but you can peek through a window and see its rustic interior. (See photo above.)

The walking track to Wallace Hut starts along the Bogong High Plains Road. The walk to the hut is nearly 1 mile round trip. A longer, but pretty walk from Wallace Hut to Cope Hut — called Wallaces Heritage Trail — is 3.5 miles round trip.

Map of Wallaces Heritage Trail
Here’s a map, provided by Alpine National Park, of the Wallaces Heritage Trail and shorter options. (Sheryl Jean)

Cope Hut, Alpine National Park, Victoria

This historic hut offers panoramic views of the High Plains and the Great Dividing Range.

Cattlemen built most of the huts in the Victorian Alps for their use, but Cope Hut was the first hut built specifically for tourists on the Bogong High Plains. It was built in 1929, largely due to lobbying efforts by the Ski Club of Victoria to have skier accommodations on the High Plains.

It’s a short walk (15 minutes round trip) to Cope Hut from the car park on the Bogong High Plains Road. Near the car park are some lovely picnic spots with fantastic vistas of the High Plains and distant mountains.

Cope Hut, Alpine National Park, Australia
Cope Hut sits on a hillside, offering spectacular views of the High Plains in Alpine National Park. (Sheryl Jean)

Green Gully Track, New South Wales

This 40-mile, hut-to-hut hike is one of Australia’s best. The remote track in Oxley Wild Rivers National Park, which is about an eight-hour drive from Sydney, boasts the Apsley-Macleay gorges, one of Australia’s largest gorge systems, as well as mountain streams, forests and wildlife.

Hikers will stay in five restored stockman huts over four days: Cedar Creek Cottage, Birds Nest Hut, Green Gully Hut, Colwells Hut and Cedar Creek Lodge. The huts include fireplaces, cots, solar lights, non-flush toilets and cooking equipment facilities; one hut  has a solar-powered outdoor hot shower.

White’s River Hut, New South Wales

Surrounded by Snow Gum slopes, this cozy hut in the Kosciuszko’s Main Range has a fireplace, dining room, bunk rooms and toilet. The hut is accessible only by hiking, biking or skiing. The Kosciusko Alpine Club has run the hut since 1938 and restored it in 2011. It charges an overnight fee.

The Overland Track, Tasmania

This may be Australia’s most iconic alpine trek: 40 miles over six days through the stunning Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park. Hikers will see moorlands, swamps, rainforests, eucalyptus forests and alpine meadows.

Anyone can stay overnight, cook and rest in six huts along the Overland Track. Each hut has sleeping platforms, tables and benches, coal or gas heaters, composting toilets and rainwater tanks, but the don’t have lighting or cooking facilities. Huts cannot be pre-booked, so still carry a tent and sleeping bags.

Three historic huts on the Overland Track — Du Cane, Kitchen and Old Pelion — can only be slept in during emergencies.

Kia Ora Hut on Tasmania's Overland Track
Hikers on Tasmania’s Overland Track can stay in the rustic Kia Ora Hut. (Tatters @ Flickr)

Basic hut rules

  • Leave the hut as you found it.
  • If you use the fireplace, make sure the fire is completely out when you leave.
  • Close all doors and windows.
  • Don’t leave food in the hut. It clutters it up and attracts possums or other animals.

Hello again: Delta’s free food in economy class on long domestic flights is a welcome change to constant fees

I recently ate my first free meal in years on a domestic flight in coach class. On Delta Air Lines. And it was pretty good.

Most U.S. airlines cut complimentary meals on domestic flights in the main cabin more than a decade ago. Delta did so in 2001 to cut costs. (Airlines still offer free meals and drinks to all passengers on long-haul international flights.)

Since then, however, in-flight food has been making a bit of a comeback. First came the paid meals, but now some airlines, like Delta, are once again offering free meals in economy class.

Delta’s decision is not brand new, but this was my first chance to sample it on a cross-country flight from Boston to San Francisco. In early 2017, Delta re-introduced free meals in the main cabin on some of its longest domestic flights. The service now is offered on more than a dozen routes, including:

  • New York (JFK) to/from Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Seattle and Portland, Ore.
  • Washington D.C. (DCA) to/from Los Angeles
  • Seattle to/from Boston; Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; Orlando, Fla.; and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
  • Boston to/from San Francisco and Los Angeles
  • Atlanta to/from Honolulu
  • New York (JFK) to/from Honolulu
  • Minneapolis to/from Honolulu

Like other airlines, Delta is focused on serving healthier food and drinks. Options on its free main cabin meal menu vary depending on the time of a flight. Recent options included a Turkey and Swiss Bagel or Protein Pack in the morning; a beef pastrami sandwich or veggie wrap for lunch; a Greek Mezze Plate or Sesame Noodle Salad for dinner on overnight flights. Fruit and cheese plates are offered at all times.

Delta's complimentary menu cover
Delta’s main cabin passengers get their own menu of complimentary food and drink options. This is the menu cover. (Sheryl Jean)

On my recent flight, I ate the Sesame Noodle Salad. The dish included four types of vegetables, the noodles weren’t overcooked, the sauce wasn’t overly sweet or salty, and the portion size was just about right for me. (See featured photo at top.) All in all, I was happy with the meal.

I also received free snack (a small Kind bar) among options including Cheez-It crackers and cookies. Delta offers free snacks to main cabin passengers on flights over 250 miles. In addition, passengers travelling in Delta Comfort Plus domestic routes (on flights over 900 miles) will receive free snacks.

Delta main cabin complimentary menu
These were Delta’s complimentary food and drink options on my recent cross-country flight. (Sheryl Jean)

Delta also offers 17 different special meals, such as diabetic, gluten-free and vegetarian to all passengers on flights that offer complimentary meals. Passengers can pre-order these meals.

Other U.S. airlines also have upgraded their food menus and other services to make flying easier and more comfortable, though most charge for food.

As of December, American Airlines began offering a new inflight healthy menu to main cabin passengers on most U.S. flights longer than three hours — in collaboration with Zoës Kitchen. I wrote a blog post about it.

Will such moves be enough to attract new customers? Who knows. But they’re sure to please existing customers who’ve been nickeled-and-dimed by airlines for everything from headphones to extra leg room.

More travelers want to be active on vacation: 5 free ways

What do you do on vacation?

Some people just want to lie on the beach and read a book while sipping a piña colada to decompress from their busy work lives.

But more people want to be active, explore and have a bit of an adventure. In fact, more than 90% of travelers participated in an activity during their last trip, according to travel research firm Phocuswright (see its tweet below).

Phocuswright defines “activities” as tours, attractions, events, activities (excluding dining and shopping) and transportation that travelers spend time and money on while traveling.

The global travel activities market represented 10% of the global travel market in 2016 — more than the rail, car rental and cruise segments, according to Phocuswright.

Phocuswright chart of activities share of travel

And the global travel activities market is growing fast — faster than the overall travel industry — and Phocuswright expects it to reach $183 billion in bookings by 2020.

Phocuswright global activities bookings

So, what do people most like to do when they travel?

Hiking is a top activity, according to the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA). Travelers also like trips with an “environmentally sustainable” element and family or multigenerational travel. I wrote an article on multigenerational travel in January for The Dallas Morning News.

Being active on your vacation doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Here are five free or inexpensive ways to explore and stay active:

Free tours: Many U.S. cities offer free walking tours — either guided or self-guided with brochures made available at a library or visitor center. Many organizations, such as San Francisco’s nonprofit City Guides, are led by volunteers who accept donations. FreeTour and Free Tours by Foot offer free or low-cost guided walking tours of many U.S. and European cities. These tours are a good way to meet locals of a new city or country as well as fellow travelers.

Universities: Many universities offer campus tours to the public, not just prospective students. Stanford University, for instance, offers a free 70-minute, volunteer-led walk daily at 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. In addition, some colleges have free offerings, such as campaniles, nature trails and art museums. I wrote a blog post “How to make college tours fun” last year about some of these offerings at California universities.

Mobile apps: Many apps will act as your tour guide just about anywhere. The free Field Trip app uses your phone’s GPS to find cool things wherever you are worldwide — from temples and museums to restaurants and shops. The Historypin app (all free) offers planned excursions and vintage photos of your location with information and an interactive map — all through crowdsourcing.

Bike share: Many cities offer bike (or scooter) share programs that are inexpensive. It’s an easy way to see a city, but stay active.

Airbnb Experiences: In addition to home rentals, Airbnb a few years ago began offering activities offered by locals of a destination. Recent top-rated experiences ranged from snorkeling in Merida, Mexico, for $41 per person to a traditional Thai Yantra tattoo in Chiang Mai, Thailand, for $82. Since 2016, Airbnb has expanded its Experiences to more than 1,000 destinations.

Record rain and snow makes for wonderful waterfalls: Multnomah Falls in Oregon

This spring not only brought May flowers, but it produced wonderful waterfalls thanks to record rainfall and snowfall across the country, including California, Oregon and Washington.

All of that water makes for roaring waterfalls. It’s amazing to hear the awesome power of Mother Nature as water cascades down a cliff or hits rocks below with a thunderous crash.

The Columbia River Gorge

I recently drove along the stunning 70-mile Historic Columbia River Highway, which is a tourist destination in itself. I decided to check out Multnomah Falls, the most visited natural site in Oregon with some 2.5 million visitors a year.

Historic Columbia River Highway

The Columbia River Gorge is made for waterfall lovers (see map above), with Multnomah Falls being the most famous of several that are free to visit. Multnomah Falls is the nation’s second highest year-round waterfall at 620 feet tall: The upper fall plunges 542 feet and the lower fall plummets 69 feet with a 9-foot elevation drop in between.

Eons ago, lava and mudflows from volcanoes in the Cascade Mountain Range formed the Columba River Gorge. Remnants of these flows can be seen today in the gorge, including the cliff of Multnomah Falls.

Waterfalls are just part of the Columbia River area’s rich history — from American Indians and explorers Lewis and Clark to French Canadian trappers and missionaries. The Oregon Trail ended at The Dalles at the eastern end of the steep gorge, which was impassable.

Multnomah Falls

Multnomah Falls is a 45-minute drive east of Portland, Ore., on the stunning Columbia River Gorge Scenic Highway. It takes about 15 minutes less if you stay on Interstate 84 the whole way.

From I-84, you can see the top part of Multnomah Falls, but it’s worth the 5-minute walk from the parking lot to the base of the falls for a stunning view. Tilt back your head in a vertigo-inducing move to see the clifftop from which the waterfall drops in two tiers. Picturesque Benson Bridge spans the falls in the middle of the two tiers.

Multnomah Falls' upper and lower tiers
Benson Bridge spans the middle of Multnomah Falls’ two tiers: The upper tier is on the left and the lower tier is on the right. (Photos by Sheryl Jean with BeFunky)

Built in 1914, Benson Bridge is named for Simon Benson, a wealthy Portland lumberman who owned the falls in the early 1900s. He gave Multnomah Falls to the City of Portland, which later gave ownership to the U.S. Forest Service.

For a closer view, walk a quarter mile on a paved trail to the 45-foot reinforced-concrete arched bridge 105 feet above the lower Multnomah Falls. As I stood there last month, spray from the falls covered my face.

A U.S. Forest Service ranger told me that Multnomah Falls and other nearby falls were as powerful as she had ever seen them. Unlike many other falls, Multnomah Falls doesn’t dry up in the late summer because it’s fed by an underground spring augmented by spring snowmelt, she said.

If you want to hike further, a steep paved trail leads to a fenced platform above Multnomah Falls. A section of Larch Mountain Trail from Benson Bridge to the top of Multnomah Falls is closed indefinitely because of falling rocks and a dangerous overhang.

Another interesting feature is the historic Multnomah Falls Lodge, a Cascadian style stone-and-wood building built in 1925 and designed by Portland, Ore., architect Albert E. Doyle. Today, it houses the U.S. Forest Service Information Center, a restaurant, café and gift shop.

Visitors at Multnomah Falls, Oregon
Visitors vie for the best view of two-tiered Multnomah Falls. (Photo by Sheryl Jean)

Continue reading for more waterfalls along the Columbia River Gorge and a list of the top 10 national parks with splendid waterfalls.

Continue reading Record rain and snow makes for wonderful waterfalls: Multnomah Falls in Oregon

“Flat white” and “long black:” Aussie cafe culture has its own language

Like surfing, Australia has a strong coffee culture.

It also has its own coffee language.

When I saw “flat white” and “long black” on a cafe menu during a recent visit to Australia, I had to ask for a description. After reading this post, you won’t have to do that.

Australia’s large Italian, Greek and other immigrant populations have influenced its coffee culture. So, Australian coffee tends to be good and strong — just the way I like it.

The country’s cafes often have full menus that serve good food. Some are small and intimate; others are large and lofty. They’re popular meeting places — even at night.

Australia coffee
Cafes pop up everywhere — such as this one at Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne. (Photo by Sheryl Jean)

This is not a post of best cafes because there are too many. Independent cafes (or small coffee chains) grace nearly every corner of big cities, such as Melbourne and Sydney, and small towns. Many local cafes also roast and distribute their own coffee. Just explore.

So mate, here’s a glossary to order coffee in Australia.

Espresso or short black: This is a shot of strong Italian coffee called espresso.

Doppio: This is a double shot of espresso.

Long black: This is a double espresso with hot water. It’s called an Americano in the United States.

Macchiato: A shot of espresso is served with a small amount of frothed milk. It’s small and strong, like an espresso.

Latte: This is a shot of espresso mixed with foamy hot milk. It’s usually the milkiest option.

Flat white: This might be the most Australian coffee drink. One shot of espresso is mixed with steamed hot milk. A barista in Melbourne described it to me as a latte without the foam.

Cappuccino: In an Australian Cappuccino, the espresso is dusted with unsweetened cocoa powder before frothy steamed milk is added. It’s a milkier version of Cappuccino.

Mocha: A latte with chocolate.

coffee
Market Lane Coffee in Melbourne, always has a line. (Photo by Sheryl Jean)

 

Traveling abroad for spring break? Follow these health and safety tips for smooth sailing

Sun and surf are top priorities for many people who travel to exotic locations for “spring break. But health and safety risks may lurk behind the scenes in some countries.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers several tips to help ensure smooth sailing before, during and after spring break.

Before your trip

  • Vaccines or medicines may be recommended depending on your destination. See your doctor or a health care professional at least one month before you depart for an international trip.
  • Check the U.S. Department of State’s travel advisories and alerts by country. Register with the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program in case of an emergency.
  • Pack a travel health kit with items you might need on your trip, including prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines and condoms. If you forget something like sunscreen, you probably can buy it at your destination, but medicine brands, dosage and quality may differ. Bring written prescriptions.
  • Many health insurance plans don’t cover medical care in other countries; check yours. Consider buying trip cancellation, travel insurance or travel medical insurance, especially if you will be going to a remote place.

During your trip

  • Be careful when tasting local food and drink. In developing countries, eat only food that has been fully cooked and served hot: son’t eat fresh vegetables or fruits unless you can peel them; drink bottled, sealed beverages; and avoid ice since it’s probably made with tap water.
  • Use insect repellent and other measures to prevent insect bites that can cause diseases, such as malaria, yellow fever and Zika.
  • Practice sun protection. Remember you can get a sunburn when it’s cloudy. Wear sunscreen of at least SPF 15, a hat and sunglasses.
  • Choose safe transportation, wear a seat belt and be alert when crossing the street. Motor vehicle crashes are the No. 1 cause of death among healthy travelers.

If you get sick or injured while traveling and need immediate medical attention, contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in that country to help find medical services.

Specific health risks

Zika: Many popular spring break destinations in the Caribbean, Central and South America and Mexico have a risk of Zika. Because the virus can cause birth defects and is spread by mosquitoes and sex, travelers to at-risk areas should prevent mosquito bites and use condoms during sex. The CDC advises pregnant women not to travel to areas with a risk of Zika. Check the CDC’s Zika page for information by country.

Yellow fever: Brazil has an ongoing yellow fever outbreak, so travelers should check the risk level at their specific destination. Get a yellow fever vaccine at least 10 days before travel (only certain U.S. clinics offer the yellow fever vaccine; find a clinic near you) and prevent mosquito bites, which is how the virus spreads.

Flu: Many countries have reported widespread flu outbreaks. Get your annual flu shot at least two weeks before a trip. During travel, wash your hands often and avoid people who are coughing or appear sick.

Measles. There are outbreaks in popular places such as Brazil, France, Greece and Italy. Make sure your MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine is up to date.

Norovirus: Outbreaks of this virus, which causes vomiting and diarrhea, have been reported on cruise ships. Wash your hands frequently and practice safe eating and drinking habits during on-shore excursions.

Hepatitis B: Avoid getting tattoos or piercings abroad to prevent infection caused by the hepatitis B virus.

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs): Use condoms to reduce your risk.

After your trip

If you don’t feel well after your trip, contact your doctor or a medical professional. You may have picked up a virus or infection. The CDC provides a list of travel medical clinics.

Don’t let a preventable illness or poor planning ruin your trip or your return home.

Note: The featured photo at the top of this blog post is by Oliver Sjöström at https://ollivves.com. The image is publicly available on Pixels.

Why few blog posts? Gone traveling

You may have noticed a dearth of posts on this blog lately.

Call it an occupational hazard: I’m traveling to gather more fodder to post. (Can you guess from my photo where I am?)

A busy itinerary leaves little time for blogging. And I’m without Wi-Fi service for long stretches — even in today’s connected world. Remember when social media didn’t exist (gasp)?

Being unplugged can ne good for the body and soul. One study shows that using light-emitting electronic devices before bedtime may harm sleep patterns, health and performance. Other research found that the presence of a cell phone is distracting and decreases attention and task completion.

Look for upcoming posts of my adventures here.

6 smart money tips for traveling overseas

You plan to travel overseas because it’s off season and exchange rates for the U.S. dollar are favorable, but you haven’t dealt with foreign currency for a while.

Don’t worry. Here are six tips, based on my travel experience, to help stretch your dollars.

1. Ditch foreign transaction fees: Before your departure, check if your credit card charges you a foreign transaction fee on any purchase overseas. If it does, consider switching to one that doesn’t charge such a fee or applying for one to take instead. Several credit cards, including Citi Premier Card and Bank of America Premium Rewards credit card, don’t charge a foreign transaction fee. The Points Guy website just wrote about this last month. Give yourself enough time for a card to arrive by mail.

2. Chip it: Make sure your bank card has a chip (most cards should by now)  and and you have a four-digit PIN number, which is what is used in Europe.

3. Be safe: To avoid theft or unauthorized use of your debit or credit card number, make sure to keep your cards safe and protect your PIN number from being seen by other people — even at U.S. airports.

4. Wait to get foreign currency: Given the prevalence of ATM machines at airports and the broad acceptance of credit cards, you don’t need to exchange dollars into the foreign currency of the country you’re traveling to before you get there. You can wait until you arrive at your destination and use a bank ATM at the airport or other location, not a money change center. If you feel more comfortable with some some foreign cash in hand, just exchange a small amount before your departure.

5. Convert money in bulk: Try to estimate how much money you’ll need and change it all once to avoid multiple bank fees and fluctuations in the exchange rate that may not be in your favor.

6. Pay in local currency: When using a credit or debit card in another country, if you’re given the option of paying in US. dollars or the foreign currency, choose the currency of the country where you are to avoid paying extra fees.

In Europe, for example, the dollar is enjoying one of the best exchange rates to the Euro in two years. On Tuesday, you would have received 0.88 euros for $1. For more information on the strong dollar, read my blog post from December.