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Traveling this Holiday Weekend? Make Sure You Are Prepared

by Alexandra Zega

This weekend brings the start of the summer travel season. Whether traveling by airl, car or train, there are key tips to consider before heading out.

Make sure to read these 22 travel tips, courtesy of Travelerspoint.com:

1. Security and Keeping Details Safe
Scan your passport, passport photos and paper tickets (if not the e type) in. Store this (in an email for e.g.) in your web based email account.
You can also store the details of your emergency 'lost card' telephone numbers in your web based email account so you know who to contact if your credit card or ATM card is lost or stolen.
This way, even if you lose everything, you have immediate access your all important information. You can even email the details page of your passport to the embassy or consulate when applying for a new one.

2. Split up your valuables
Split up your bank cards, cash, travellers' cheques and credit cards as much as possible in different pockets, your bags and wallet when packing. In case you do get robbed, at least you won't be strapped for cash (unless you have all your bags AND your wallet stolen of course!).

3. Nalgene/Small Bottles
Use nalgene/small bottles to pack toiletries and other small items. There are several sturdy and (very nearly) waterproof ones, with clear/see through ones being preferable (easier for security purposes post August 2006). You can also use small bottles to repack shampoo or lotions so that you don't have to always carry a big bottle with you. This is especially useful if you normally take these items in your carry-on luggage, which as of early 2007 is much more restricted than before.

4. Backpack Tips
When you are packing things into a backpack, place the lighter items at the bottom and the heavier ones on top. Your bag will feel lighter this way as the pack rests on your lower back. It is also smart to place the things you use the most on top. Dirty clothes are perfect to pack at the bottom of a backpack.

5. Plastic Bags
It is always handy to have a few plastic bags around certain items, especially toiletries. Not only does it counter any leaking, the bags can also come in useful to keep dirty clothes in, as garbage bags or even as a makeshift umbrella. Ziplock or other airtight plastic bags are the best.

6. Pack in Plastic
Pack everything in clear plastic bags (preferably zip lock), divided into items e.g. underwear, t-shirts, shorts etc. before packing in your suitcase or backpack. One plastic bag for each type of clothing. This is extremely useful in various ways. When you unpack your bag you just take out a series of bags and you can see immediately what you want. So an overnight stay somewhere just means taking 1 item out of a bag - no rummaging!! In addition, if you have to unpack at customs etc, instead of having to disgorge all your clothing etc out in front of everybody, you can calmly take maybe 5/6 bags out, the contents of which can be clearly seen by the officials. To repack then is also dead easy. Just be sure not to leave your plastic bags lying around if you are travelling in nature! (Tip from a member)

7. Clothes
Pack only what you know you will use and if you are travelling for more than three weeks, plan to wash on the road.

8. Split up clothes when travelling with others
When you are flying somewhere and especially if you have a few stopovers, divide the clothes between different suitcases/backpacks/bags etc. If one persons luggage doesn't arrive at the destination, they'll still have clean clothes available. Airlines generally don't compensate lost luggage for the first 24-48 hours so this will save you money if it happens to you. (Tip from a member)

9. Separate Beach Bag
When packing to head to the beach consider pre-packing whatever you might need at the beach into a beachbag inside your backpack or suitcase. Especially if travelling with kids, this will prove a timesaver!

10. Suitcase lovers
For those using suitcases without a divider. A piece of cardboard makes an excellent divider and helps keep your clothes organized and neat as you are able to lay them out flat on the cardboard. It also makes airport inspections a lot less of a hassle as you can lift out your divider with clothes on top easily.

11. Gifts
While it is a good idea to take some small gifts with you while travelling, pre-wrapping them can be a waste of time if you are flying and your bags are opened. (Tip from a member)

12. Flashlights or Torches
When packing a flashlight or torch (or any other item with batteries for that matter), turn the batteries around so that if the item is accidentally turned on, you won't empty the batteries. Don't forget to turn the batteries back around when using the flashlight.

13. Diaper Bag
If you are travelling with babies, then the diaper bag is an excellent place to hide your valuables. This most likely will not be the first thing to be stolen. It's also a great to use as a waste bag (even when not travelling with a child!), especially at places that do not allow you to flush toilet paper.

14. Shoes
If you want to make sure everything else in your bags stays clean and odor free, place the shoes inside old socks and then inside airtight plastic bags (ziplock).

15. Carry-On
Keep any medication and important papers in your carry-on bag. On long flights with multiple stopovers (especially if flying via London, LA or other major airports), packing a fresh change of clothes is a good idea as bags tend to get delayed or lost on long haul, multiple stop flights. You don't want to end up stuck without medication, clothes or your important papers even if it is just for a few days.

16. Roll Technique
Somehow it seems that bags will hold more if the clothes are rolled rather than folded. If you roll in tissue paper, the clothes will also get less wrinkled.

17. Travelling to warm destinations?
If you appreciate cold drinks think of using a six-pack cooler as a toiletry bag. Once you arrive at your destination and unload your toiletries your 'toiletry bag' guarantees cheap cold drinks on the beach, no matter how remote.

18. Local Tourism Offices
The best source of information is usually local. Check out Tourism Offices to find unbiased feedback on the best accommodation to suit your needs. Excercise caution in countries where you feel the information might not be so unbiased!

19. Minimize on toiletries
Take only half a tube of toothpaste rolled up tight, store shampoo in small containers, only take half a roll of toilet paper (for emergencies only) and crush it so the middle is folded.

20. Take solid shampoo bars and tooth powder
Solid shampoo bars and tooth powder (instead of tooth paste) can be easily located on the internet and make carry-on travel in this age of liquid restriction possible. Places like Beijing now bar all liquids in carry-on bags, and you'll still be able to breeze through without checking. (Tip from a member)

21. Planning on carrying a lot of luggage?
While carrying a lot of luggage is not recommendable, sometimes it is necessary in the case of relocations and so on. If you have the possibility, fly via the US as airlines will allow you 64kg (two 32kg bags) instead of the 20kg in the rest of the world. Even if it is just a stopover in the US, you will be allowed to carry the extra weight. Check with your local travel agent for the details.

22. Packing List and Trip Planning
Ready to start packing? Or is there still more trip planning to be done? Check out our Packing List and Trip Planning guide to help you get the most out of your trip by planning well and packing everything.

 

(c) RISMEDIA, Stephanie Andre

Tips on How to Fix Your House Up to Sell

by Alexandra Zega

With the summer buying and selling season just around the corner, now is the time to think about how you can create a lasting first impression with potential buyers. Here are 8 simple tips that will help your home stand out from the crowd.

Open the drapes and blinds. Sunshine is the world's best decorator and nothing is more depressing than walking into a home where shades, curtains and drapes are closed.

Wash the windows
- inside and out. For the same reasons as above, no other small improvement will give you more bang than this.

Clean up the yard.
Cut back overgrown shrubs, particularly those that obscure windows or make it difficult to get to the front door. Mow the grass, rake or pick up downed leaves and branches, put away lawn tools, kids' toys and discard or store any outdoor furniture that is rusty or ragged. If season and funds permit, put down some colorful annuals or put a few nicely planted containers on or near the front porch.

Clutter Control. De-cluttering and organizing your home is very important and not just to make the place look neat. A cluttered home looks smaller and less airy. All of the pictures, knick-knacks, even an exquisite art collection are distracting to many buyers.

Clean your kitchen and bathrooms – Be sure to pay attention to the kitchen and bathrooms. The kitchen may be old but it can still sparkle. Clean the stovetop with a good degreaser and all countertops to remove stains and discoloration. Wash the front of all cupboards and appliances and keep the floor swept and scrubbed for as long as the home is on the market. De-clutter here too, especially the refrigerator door. Ditch countertop appliances, canisters, etc and keep cupboard doors and drawers closed if your hand is not actually in them. It is critical that the bathrooms sparkle. Old bathrooms can be charming and a new shower curtain or fresh flowers on the counter may be all you need. Put out your best towels and, if you have young children, enforce the flush rule.

Refinish hardwood floors.
These are a major selling point when selling your home and sometimes a home's most compelling feature. Often they don't need complete refinishing, just to be roughed up and polyurethaned to obtain that killer shine.

Paint/Repaint Your Home.
If your taste in decorating is a bit strong, it may pay to hire a professional to tone down some of the more dramatic color rooms. Neutral colors are best for marketing your home for sale.

Buy, borrow or rent what you need
. If your furniture shows the effect of raising five kids or if pets have ruined the rugs and upholstery, think about storing or getting rid of your existing furniture and finding just enough more attractive stuff to get by. If your nest is empty and the kids' rooms are beaten up, throw out the furniture, give the walls a quick wash coat of paint and put one or two small flea market pieces - a hobby horse, a bean-bag chair, the old bassinette from the attic - in the room to merely suggest its use.

 

(c) Paige Tepping

 

Easy Ways of Saving Let You Sit Back and Benefit

by Alexandra Zega

Don't feel like clipping coupons? Unwilling to sacrifice lifestyle to save a buck? Unmotivated to budget?

No problem.

Tap into the world of lazy savings, set-it-and-forget-it ways to keep more cash in your pocket without depriving yourself:

Get dining rewards: Register your credit and debit cards at iDine.com for free and get 5 percent cash back for eating at participating restaurants. No coupons or gift certificates necessary. IDine.com also offers paid memberships for more cash back.

Join a credit union: Almost everybody qualifies for a credit union, and they usually have lower fees and loan rates than traditional banks. Go to culookup.com to find one near you.

Use retail loyalty cards: Sign up for a card at frequently visited supermarkets and retailers. Then shop as usual and watch the savings and goodies pile up. Often you don't need to carry the card. Cashiers can usually look it up by phone number. Or, combine loyalty-card bar codes with such tools as CardStar, mycardstar.com, which has smart phone apps and a wallet-size card via a partnership with KeyRingThing.com.

Buy store brands: Reach for the house brands. They're so much better than they used to be; no coupons or comparison-shopping needed. Or peruse the weekly supermarket flier and buy multiples of whatever interests you.

They are almost always great deals. Along those lines is a tip from Myscha Theriault, co-author of "10,001 Ways to Live Large on a Small Budget." Get half off sunscreen by purchasing body lotion with sunscreen included.

Use rewards credit cards: If you don't carry a balance on your credit cards, use a rewards card that pays you back, preferably in cash. Then shop as you would and reap the rewards. Compare cards online at such sites as CardRatings.com, LowCards.com and IndexCreditCards.com.

Get browser add-ons: Several Web browser toolbars and plug-ins can help you save money shopping online, including CouponCabin.com and Billeo.com. One of the slickest is at GetInvisibleHand.com. Its toolbar is hidden until you visit a product page. Then it appears and tells you whether this is the best price or where you can get it cheaper. It doesn't include shipping prices, but it's passive price comparison for the truly lazy.

Pay online and automatically: Online and auto-pay options can save money, especially by preventing late fees. Buy fewer stamps and envelopes, which is a hassle and expense. You might get a discount. Allstate insurance gives up to a 5 percent discount in most states for paying with automatic bank withdrawals.

Raise your retirement contribution 1 point: You won't notice the difference. And if you do it online, it might take one minute. Repeat every time you get a raise.

Change your thermostat 1 degree: Up in the summer, down in the winter. You won't notice the difference, but over time your wallet will.

Buy CFLs: Replace your five most-used nondimmable lights with compact fluorescent bulbs and save 75 percent in energy costs. Lazy-savings bonus? You won't have to replace CFLs as often as incandescent bulbs, because they last 10 times longer. Similarly, switch to rechargeable batteries. You'll save money and never be caught without when the TV remote fails.

Shrink your spending: Billshrink.com is a good comparison site for wireless phone service, credit cards and savings account rates, but it's also convenient for tracking gas prices. Sign up, and it will send you an e-mail alerting you to the lowest-price gas on your commute.

(c) 2010, Gregory Karp,The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.)

5 Simple Tips To Help You Save Money

by Alexandra Zega

 

Who wouldn’t want to have more money? It is doubtful that there is anyone on the planet who would prefer to have less money. So, why do people always find themselves short on funds?

Often, this is the result of not having the proper focus. They will seek to earn more money when such earnings are not possible. After all, there are only so many hours per week a person can work. Having more money is not always a matter of earning more money. Instead you can have more money by cutting costs and saving money.

To help you get on track, read these tips from Finance Tips 101:

1. Always look for a deal or discount whenever you purchase anything. There are hundreds of coupons, discounts, and deals out there and consumers should certainly look out for these deals. And then they should start taking advantage of these deals since they can deliver enormous savings on many types of purchases.

2. Keep an eye on your energy bills both electric and gas. Do you really need to have your heater or air conditioner turned up to the maximum? In many instances, you do not have to do this. You could always use space heaters, ceiling fans, or other such devices. This will certainly help you lower your electric and gas bills. The amount of money that one can save with this tactic can yield incredible savings through the years.

3. Stay away from banks that charge you outrageous fees. If your checking account comes with a multitude of costs to keep the checking account open, you may be better served looking towards those banks which are much less expensive. The same can be said of credit cards that come with high interest rates. If you have a high interest credit card, it would be best to transfer balances to a lower interest rate card.

4. Cutting back on your entertainment budget would be a wise move as well. Yes, we love to engage in our favorite hobbies and activities. But, these passions due come with expenses and you will need to curtail your passions if they are costing a great deal of money. Besides, there are a ton of free things out there you can take part in and they are worth exploring.

5. Take better care of the things you own since it will extend their life expectancy. The longer something lasts, the longer you can wait before having to replace it. Do you really want to buy new clothes or a television set if you do not have to? In the past, you may have. If you are looking to save money, you will want to avoid making new purchases unless you absolutely have to. That means you need to make what you own last.

 

provided by RISMEDIA, 2010

Safety Tips to Keep You Out of the ER This Memorial Day

by Alexandra Zega

Fun in the sun, by the pool, on a boat or at a barbeque can quickly send you to the emergency department on Memorial Day if you don't plan ahead, the nation's emergency physicians warned.

"We want people to have fun on Memorial Day weekend, which officially kicks off summer," said Dr. Angela Gardner, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians. "But having fun also means staying safe, using good judgment and taking simple precautions that will help keep you out of the ER and most importantly, keep you alive."

The American College of Emergency Physicians has put together the top five tips that you and your family should follow in order to stay safe and healthy over the holiday weekend.

Tip 1: Food Safety -
- To avoid food poisoning, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture recommends cooking fresh poultry to 165 degrees, hamburgers to 160 degrees and beef to at least 145 degrees. Refrigerate all perishable food within 2 hours, 1 hour if the temperature outside is above 90 degrees. To guard against cross-contamination of bacteria, keep uncooked meats away from other foods.

Tip 2: Grill Safety -- Emergency physicians see firsthand the dangers associated with an outdoor grill. Consumers should thoroughly clean a grill of any grease or dust. Check the tubes leading into the burner for any blockages from insects or food grease that can cause an uncontrolled fire. Replace any connectors which can lead to a gas leak and keep lighted cigarettes, matches or open flames away from a leaking grill. Do not use a grill in a garage, breezeway, carport and porch or near any surface that can catch fire. Also, always follow the manufacturer's instructions that accompany the grill.

Tip 3: Water Safety -- To prevent drowning, avoid alcohol when swimming or boating. Wear a lifejacket whenever you are on a boat. Make sure young children are supervised at all times when near the beach, on a boat, or by a pool or hot tub. Don't swim alone or in bad weather. Learn to swim and teach your children to swim. We also recommend that you learn CPR in case of an emergency.

Tip 4: Sun Safety -- Protect against sunburn and heat stroke. Wear sunscreen with at least an SPF of 15 or higher and apply it generously throughout the day. Wear a hat outdoors and a good pair of sunglasses to protect your eyes. Drink plenty of water, especially when in the sun or if you are sweating heavily. If you feel faint or nauseous, get into a cool place immediately.

Tip 5: Travel Safety -- Do not drink and drive or travel with anyone who has been drinking. Wear your seatbelt at all times. Make sure your vehicle has been properly serviced and is in good working shape before a long road trip. Familiarize yourself with your surroundings if you are in an unfamiliar place and know where the nearest emergency room is to you at all times in case of an emergency.

"Many of the factors that will determine your safety over Memorial Day weekend or any time this summer will come down to good decision-making and common sense," said Dr. Gardner. "As someone who sees the consequences up close, my best advice is, know your limits, be mindful of certain risks and stay smart."

copy: RISMEDIA 2010

10 Ways to Reduce Your Summer Utility Bills

by Alexandra Zega

Before the summer heat--and summertime utility bill--starts to make you sweat, you might want to consider making a few changes to cut your energy consumption. You can shave dollars off your monthly bills without sacrificing comfort as long as you plan ahead and get creative. Here's a room-by-room guide to saving money this summer--and benefiting the Earth at the same time.

In the basement: Geoff Godwin, division vice president of Emerson, the country's largest provider of heating and cooling systems, says cleaning air conditioning filters every month and getting your system checked by a professional once a year will ensure that it's functioning as efficiently and inexpensively as possible. "A lot of people don't do that--they ignore the AC system until something goes wrong," he says, then they end up buying an entirely new unit instead of making minor fixes.

If you need a new air conditioner, an energy efficient one might be eligible for a tax credit (check at www.energystar.gov/). When you're shopping around, look for a unit with a seasonal energy efficiency ratio of 16 to 21, the highest level of efficiency. Another option is a geothermal heating and cooling system, which utilizes pipes running from the more stable, ambient temperatures found five feet underground year-round into your home, where they pump heat in or out, depending on the season.

Throughout the house: "Make sure your house is leak-free," says Alliance to Save Energy spokeswoman Ronnie Kweller, or else "nice, cold, expensive air is going out the cracks." You might want to consider assigning this task to a professional. Through the Energy Star online directory, you can find a local auditor who will use diagnostic equipment to test your home for areas where air conditioning might escape. Your auditor will probably do what's known as a blower door test, which lowers the air pressure in your home and reveals leaks. He or she may also take a photo of your house with a thermographic camera, with the red areas of the photo indicating where better insulation and sealing are needed.

If you don't want to shell out money for an energy auditor, you can perform a casual energy audit yourself. Efficiency experts recommend feeling around baseboards, windows, doors, light switches, and electrical sockets for air leaks. Air can escape or enter anywhere that two different building materials meet. Kweller also recommends walking around your house with incense to see if the smoke blows in when you pass windows. Kweller says old, wooden windows are especially prone to this kind of leakage

If you find problem areas, seal it with foam or caulking, which you can find at the hardware store. Insulation that meets certain efficiency criteria is also eligible for the federal tax credits. Kweller says properly sealing your house can save up to 20 percent on your utility bill.

Using a programmable thermostat so that the temperature automatically rises when no one is home during the day can yield annual savings of about 30 percent, says Godwin, with much of the savings in the summer, since air conditioning runs with electricity. While some 25 million households own programmable thermostats, only half of those people take advantage of them, says Godwin.

Replacing older light bulbs with compact fluorescents not only reduces your electricity bill, it can help save energy on air conditioning since fluorescents generate less heat, says Kweller. She estimates that each bulb can save about $50 over the course of its lifetime.

In the living room: There's nothing wrong with hosting movie nights this summer, but make sure you shut your entertainment center down when the evening's over. Simply turning off a television set doesn't put a stop to so-called "vampire power"--the power that devices consume even when they're not in use. That's why you should either unplug your electronics or use a Smart Strip, which cuts power when it's not needed.

If you're in the market for a new television, check energy efficiency ratings. The Energy Department bestows its Energy Star rating to sets that use about one-third less energy than regular televisions. In general, LCD televisions use less energy than plasma screens, but both use more than older sets.

Remember to turn the power off or unplug your digital photo frames when you're not gazing at those illuminated photos. Over the course of the year, leaving one on costs about $9--not a lot, but when thousands of people are doing the same thing, it adds up.

In the kitchen: Baking a cake or casserole in the summer will force your air conditioner to go into overdrive. Plus, eating hot food will only make you want to turn the thermostat down. But you don't have to survive on cold pasta salads and gazpacho this summer. Instead of using your oven, consider an outdoor grill or toaster oven for small amounts of food.

If you're up for a challenge, try baking cookies on your car--yes, your car. Nicole Weston of Baking Bites developed a method of baking chocolate cookies with the heat that collects inside cars on steamy days. She suggests parking in the sun, using a thermometer to help monitor the temperature, and protecting your dashboard by putting a barrier between it and the baking sheet. (It should be at least 95 degrees outside and the baking process takes around two and a half hours.)

In the bathroom: If you don't want to spend money on a low-flow toilet, you can still make yours more efficient by dropping a soda bottle filled with sand or water into the back. It will use less water each time it flushes. Ivan Chan of carbonfund.org adds that small steps such as turning the water off while brushing your teeth or shaving can save a substantial amount of water (and money on your water bill) each year. He also recommends installing a water conserving showerhead.

In the bedroom: Stay cool while you sleep with an overhead fan instead of pumping air conditioning throughout the entire house. Shutting the doors and vents of unused rooms can also lighten the load of your air conditioning unit.

Outside: A way to reduce cooling costs in the longer run is to plant trees or shrubs so that your house is more shaded, especially on the sunnier side, says Kweller. (For a quicker fix, draw the blinds or shades when you're not home.)

 

© Maura Judkis and Kimberly Palmer

Displaying blog entries 1-6 of 6

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