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RISMEDIA, Sept. 26, 2008-(MCT/RISMedia)- Lawmakers reached an agreement in principle Thursday on a bipartisan counterproposal to the Bush administration’s $700 billion financial bailout plan, after a two-hour negotiating session between Democrats and Republicans.

Details of the plan were not immediately released, however the announcement came just hours before Presidential hopefuls Senators Barack Obama and John McCain were to meet with President Bush and congressional leaders on the issue.

It was reported that Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee said following the meeting, “We are very confident that we can act expeditiously.” A vote within days was expected.

Here’s a look at some of the critical issues on lawmakers’ minds yesterday.

The Lowdown

One key was a compromise struck early in the day in which the White House agreed to a provision that would cap executive compensation for companies that take advantage of the Treasury Department’s offer to purchase distressed mortgage-backed assets and other securities.

In his Wednesday evening primetime address, Bush tried to win over Americans infuriated at tossing a $700-billion lifeline to Wall Street megabuck moguls-saying the alternative is a Depression-style “financial panic” of lost jobs, bank failures and plunging home prices.

“Our entire economy is in danger,” Bush said in a rare prime-time address designed to whip up support for his beleaguered Wall Street bailout plan. “Ultimately our country could experience a long and painful recession.”

He spelled out “a distressing scenario” — “more banks could fail, including some in your community. The stock market would drop even more, which would reduce the value of your retirement account. The value of your home could plummet. Foreclosures would rise dramatically. … More businesses would close their doors, and millions of Americans could lose their jobs,” Bush said.

Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson caved in to angry congressional demands that the pay of Wall Street bigwigs should be limited if their firms receive any bailout money from taxpayers. The latest concession by Paulson, the former Goldman Sachs chief executive who had previously resisted restrictions on CEO pay, could make it easier for lawmakers to vote for a final and historic $700 billion federal intervention to keep the nation’s financial system from collapsing.

Timing Is Everything

There were signs, too, of some movement on a Democratic proposal that would give the government an equity stake in companies that take advantage of the Treasury program.

Congressional Democrats and Republicans alike said late Wednesday that it remains possible the details of a final bill could be finished by the end of the week, although sticking points remain.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he remained optimistic congressional negotiators could reach a compromise — but said Bush must do much more to bring in conservative Republicans who have been the plan’s harshest critics, with some comparing the bailout to “socialism.”

“What he really has to do is roll up his sleeves and get some of the Republicans to compromise on issues like helping the homeowner, helping the taxpayer and providing real oversight,” Schumer said.

“We’re not there yet, but we’re getting there, and there’s a good possibility we’ll get there in the next day or so,” Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), chairman of the Senate Banking Committee and a broker in negotiations with the administration, said after meeting with Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke Wednesday night.

Paulson and Bernanke again spent much of their day attempting to firm up support for the plan amid withering criticism from members of both parties. The pair said the program was necessary to jump-start the healthy flow of credit throughout the nation’s financial system.

Testifying before a joint House-Senate committee, Bernanke used more apocalyptic language in describing the risk to the nation’s economy than he had the previous day, saying the country was facing “grave threats” to its financial stability.

He said the failure to pass a bailout bill would “affect spending and economic activity and it will cause the economy as a whole to decline and be much weaker than it otherwise would be.”

While the administration has shown some flexibility on the package, key battles remain to be fought. One involves judicial review of the Treasury Department’s actions. Another concerns giving bankruptcy judges the power to adjust mortgages to make them more affordable to stave off foreclosures for homeowners, an action known as a “cram-down.”

Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) told CNBC Wednesday night that he considered that provision a “poison pill” for Republicans that could stall a final agreement.

What about American Homeowners?

During its board of directors meeting in San Diego, the leadership of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) unanimously called on Congress to act now before conditions deteriorate to a point that could trigger a global financial meltdown.

“We agree with Fed Chairman Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Paulson that immediate steps need to be taken to stem the financial crisis. The financial markets are in turmoil and the flow of credit has been severely curtailed for housing and other sectors of the economy,” said NAHB President Sandy Dunn, a home builder from Point Pleasant, W.Va. “There’s no time to waste. Congress must pass legislation as soon as possible.”

A proposal by congressional Democrats to help keep people in their homes by allowing bankruptcy court judges to rewrite troubled primary mortgage loans could overwhelm court caseloads, spark lawsuits by banks who might claim judges have too much power and further destabilize the housing market, lawyers and others involved in bankruptcy cases said Wednesday.

The legislation is being promoted by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and others, who want it to become a part of Congress’ overall package to bail out the nation’s financial institutions.

The Bush administration has proposed a $700 billion bailout, but Democrats and some Republicans have said they may not go along with the proposal unless homeowners are also helped.

Under current bankruptcy laws, primary residence mortgage debt is not included in the bankruptcy process, although bankruptcy judges can restructure a debtor’s vacation home or investment property.

Changing the law could overwhelm the already crowded calendars of the bankruptcy courts, said Anthony Sabino, a bankruptcy lawyer in Mineola. “It could very well become overwhelming,” he said.

Still, he said, the measure should be tried. “Something has to get done” to help people in foreclosure.

One problem Sabino said he could foresee is that banks and other lenders may file suit against the government, saying the law gives bankruptcy judges too much power. “This could bring a flood of litigation.”

“We encourage lawmakers to immediately enact the Treasury proposal to purchase troubled assets,” said Real Estate Roundtable President and CEO Jeffrey DeBoer. “There are serious details that need to be worked out in implementing the plan and the price tag may seem high. However, negotiation over the details cannot unduly slow the process. The cost of not acting now would be far higher.”

According to the Real Estate Roundtable, real estate directly and indirectly generates economic activity equivalent to about 20 percent of GDP. It creates some 9 million jobs and generates millions of dollars in federal, regional and local tax revenue. Commercial real estate markets remains in relative equilibrium today, with industry supply and demand much stronger than in previous downturns. Yet, credit to the sector from many sources has almost completely stalled. “For owners, and for Main Street, this means property values are at risk of a freefall. For state and local governments, it means less revenue from commercial property taxes and an even tighter budget crunch. What happened to values in the residential market could very well happen on the commercial side - something which we can take steps to prevent,” said DeBoer.

Yesterday, the Mortgage Bankers Association said in a letter to Congress that it opposed any such legislation.

“Changing these rules will inevitably raise the cost of credit,” the association said. “In addition, changing the rules will further destabilize the market, as lenders will immediately have to further mark down the value of their mortgage portfolios to reflect the predictable additional new principal losses to which companies will be exposed. This will result in further instability in the market for both consumers and financial institutions.”

Gary Kusher, who heads the bankruptcy practice at Forchelli, Curto, Schwartz, Mineo, Carlino and Cohn in Mineola, questioned whether such legislation expanding the power of bankruptcy judges would be constitutional.

“It would interfere with a private contract,” Kushner said.

However, Dan Greenwood, a law professor at Hofstra University, said he doubted such legislation would create a manpower problem for the courts.

“Most of these cases will settle,” Greenwood said. “Once it’s clear the judges have the authority to renegotiate mortgage loans like everything else, people are likely to come to agreement in the shadow of the law.”

Jack Graves, a law professor at the Touro Law Center, said if something like the Democrats’ proposed legislation had been done a year ago, “we wouldn’t have had to bail out the financial institutions now.”

Democrats attempted to pass similar legislation earlier this year, but the attempt failed against Republican opposition.

Is Bailout a Housing Ills Panacea?

“There is a lot of talk about how some institutions - most recently AIG - are just too big to be allowed to fail. That may be true. But this country is made up of millions of small homeowners who can’t be allowed to fail either,” said Nancy Zirkin, executive vice president of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, during a press call with the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, AARP, ACORN, and the Center for Responsible Lending.

One such homeowner, Candace Weaver of Wilmington, NC, also participated on the call. Weaver is a middle school social studies teacher and mother of two who was diagnosed with kidney cancer within a year of getting a Lehman Brothers-backed exploding ARM loan. She needed surgery to remove the cancer and contacted her mortgage servicer and asked for a one-month deferment, which they rejected. Weaver’s cancer is in remission, but her home is now in foreclosure. She is one of the more than half a million Americans who could avoid foreclosure if Congress passes the rescue bill with bankruptcy provisions intact.

“The government is bailing out the companies who did the wrong things in making these poisonous loans that were doomed to fail. I understand the bailout had to happen but unless something is done to help struggling homeowners, people like me are left out and we’re the victims. It’s not fair. The government needs to remember people like me who pay taxes and work hard every day. All we want is to get up and go to work, contribute to our communities, and keep our homes,” said Weaver.

On Wednesday, The National Association of Realtors said the median price for existing homes fell 9.5 percent in August to $203,100 — the largest price decline recorded since 1999. In the wake of these gloomy home sales statistics, builders and real estate agents have begun to debate whether the government’s $700 billion financial industry bailout will end the slide.

“Responsible government intervention will restore a functioning market benefiting homeowners, those who wish to buy a home, financial institutions, the economy and ultimately the taxpayers,” said National Association of Realtors® President Richard F. Gaylord in a statement. “We support efforts to stabilize financial markets to allow rational valuation of assets, expedite refinancing and relief efforts for homeowners, and other measures to reestablish a level of confidence in the housing credit markets. NAR will work diligently with Congress and the administration to achieve these goals as well as the broader goal of reforming the housing finance system.”

Many analysts believe the housing industry is being slowed by homeowners’ difficulties in getting mortgages. The expectation, then, is that a federal stabilization plan for banks will get money flowing again and stop the national slide in property values.

Many economists, including NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun, believe tight credit is killing potential home sales. Realtors, including Varley, say the impact of tight credit is being felt locally, too.

Robert Blackman, vice president of development for Realty USA in Clifton Park, said many prospective buyers are discouraged by the hurdles required for a mortgage. And recent Wall Street gyrations have not helped either, he said.

“They’re almost defeated before they begin,” Blackman said. “Hopefully, something will happen in Washington that will … take some of the pressure off.”

Some analysts, including Yun, predict the federal takeover this month of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could make credit more available, because the agencies tightened the money flow when their future was in doubt.

Others caution that it’s risky to pin hopes on the $700 billion bailout until final details emerge. The bill is the subject of heated debate in Congress.

Many Democrats want it to include help for homeowners facing foreclosure.

“That would attack the root of the problem,” said Marisa DiNatale, senior economist at Moody’s, a research firm in Philadelphia. “We’re seeing record numbers of foreclosures, and it’s just adding to the supply of homes on the market.”

Still, uncertainty about the economy could hurt real estate sales, no matter what Washington does. Surveys of consumer confidence showed people were skittish about spending money even before the recent Wall Street chaos.

“People in general have been more pessimistic about the (prospects for) the economy over the next year or so,” DiNatale said. “People might not be willing to jump back into the housing market.”

Some in the housing industry had hoped the Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008, passed by Congress earlier this year, would kick-start home sales. The bill provides up to $7,500 in new tax credits to first-time home buyers who purchase before July 1, 2009.

But the bill hasn’t boosted sales, perhaps because it requires that buyers repay the tax savings within 15 years.

“The tax credit just wasn’t strong enough,” said Pam Krison, executive officer of the Capital Region Builders and Remodelers Association, a trade group.

What Americans Are Saying

- 55% Say it’s not the government’s responsibility to bail out private companies with taxpayer dollars, even if their collapse could damage the economy
- 45% Say Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama would do a better job handling the financial crisis than Republican John McCain (33%)
- 80% Say the U.S. is going in the wrong direction

ABOUT THE POLL: The Sept. 19-22 telephone survey of 1,428 adults nationwide had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Copyright © 2008
Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald, Newsday, Albany Times Union

Wines for Winging It

by Alexandra Zega


RISMEDIA, Sept. 22, 2008-(MCT)-Chicken wings, no matter how they’re prepared, are among the simplest but memorable pleasures of life. Be sure to mark the occasion with a glass of wine.


Well, yes. Beer may be the traditional choice for wings, especially those sauced up in classic Buffalo style. With a little bit of experimentation, though, you can find just the right wine for whatever type of wings you are serving-even the honey barbecue wings used in our tasting.

Natalie MacLean, author of “Red, White and Drunk All Over,” recommends an off-dry riesling or a fruity merlot with honey barbecue wings.

“The sweetness and tangy flavors in the wings need a wine with a touch of sweetness, whether that’s some residual sugar in the riesling or fruit ripeness in the merlot,” MacLean said. “But, for fun, try a spumante. This lightly sparkling, off-dry Italian bubbly is amazing with many honey barbecue dishes but with chicken wings it’s divine.”

What wine to serve with chicken wings matters because we Americans eat so many of them. The National Chicken Council estimates 12 billion chicken wings, some 2.6 billion pounds, will be marketed in 2008. And that’s just wings sold as wings, not the wings still attached to the bird.

I posed the “wing-wine” question to a number of Chicago-area experts and common themes emerged. The perfect wing wines would be crisp, refreshing and able to play well with the often bold flavors of the various sauces used as glazes.

Tom Benezra of Sal’s Beverage World touts riesling, among other wine varieties, to pair with wings.

“Riesling and chenin blanc in their California and Washington state versions provide refreshing fruitiness and a crisp finish without the minerality of Old World styles, making for a smooth combination,” he said. “Anyone looking for an excuse to drink white zinfandel has found it here. It’s a perfect match, both in terms of its soft, fruity flavor and its all-American heritage.”

Barbara Rooks of Schaefer’s in Skokie recommends Wente’s Riverbank riesling, with its 24% share of gewurztraminer, because of its greater weight and spiciness. She also thinks an Austrian gruner veltliner, such as those made by Rainer Wess, would work, especially because the wine has a note of nutmeg on the finish.

Rooks’ favorite wing wine is a Spanish red, a garnacha like Monte Oton. She thinks the wine’s light cherry flavor and spiciness works with the heat and flavors of the wings.

Go with red Rhone varieties if the wings are slathered with barbecue sauce, suggested Bill Newton, wine and special events manager for Binny’s Beverage Depot.

“I would look at a Central Coast syrah,” he said. “Beckmen syrah and Beckmen Cuvee Le Bec, which is made from a blend of Rhone varietals, would both go well with the barbecue sauce. The smoky, spice flavor profile in these two wines would be a great match.”

Efrain Madrigal of Sam’s Wines & Spirits is not so convinced red wine can work with wings, especially Buffalo wings.

“The vinegary hot sauce would kill just about all reds,” he said. “Roses and whites would be better, but I would go with something bubbly. Champagne or methode champenoise styles may be too austere, so I would go with a softer, creamier prosecco. Prosecco also tends to have a bit lower alcohol, so it won’t amplify the heat from the wing sauce.”

Standing up to Honey Barbecue

Admittedly, there’s a certain over-the-top zaniness in pairing a $110 bottle of French Champagne with a mess of honey barbecue chicken wings ordered from the Wing Zone restaurant in Evergreen Park, Ill. But it works-and provides a little comic relief in these dire times.

The Atlanta-based Wing Zone chain sells chicken wings in 25 different flavors; honey barbecue is one of the faves. Makes sense as there is a lot of honey barbecue this and honey barbecue that out there. It’s a flavor that needs to be paired with many different wines to get the right match. Wing Zone’s honey barbecued wings had a pronounced but appetizing smoky aroma. The sauce was dark, sticky, sweet and just a little spicy. The chicken was fried until golden and crunchy before being sauced.

For Good Eating’s blind tasting, there were six wines: three white, one sparkling rose, two reds. Each wine was sampled on its own and scored. Then the wine was paired with the wings and scored again. It is that wing-matching score given below.

2007 Grgich Hills Estate Fume Blanc: This tart, crisp sauvignon blanc had grapefruit on the nose and a flavor that offered touches of pear, stone and black pepper. Tasters loved this Napa Valley white on its own and found it ably supported the wings. 3 corks. $28

1998 Pol Roger Rose: Ah, the decadence: bubbly and wings. Yet, this pretty salmon-colored sparkler was great on its own. There was a toasty note to the nose and the crisp flavor was enlivened with touches of tart berries. The Champagne balanced the sweetness of the sauce while highlighting the pepperiness of the chicken. 3 corks. $110

2006 Joel Gott Zinfandel: Terrific on its own, this California red was aromatic with notes of cedar, incense, spice and blackberries. Most tasters thought the zin helped the wings by cutting the sauce’s richness. A few naysayers thought the wings were overwhelmed by the wine, thus dropping its score slightly. 3 corks. $15

2006 Torres Sangre de Toro: This inexpensive Spanish garnacha blend had notes of spice and raspberry on the nose. The rich fruit flavor was overlaid with spice, wood and black pepper. The red worked well with the wings, although some panelists worried the wine might be a little too heavy. 3 corks. $8

2006 Dry Creek Chardonnay: This Russian River Valley white had that classic chardonnay nose of toasty oak. The flavor was crisp, with notes of apple, pear and oak. Tasters thought the match was workable but not very exciting. One panelist thought the oak of the wine was too much with the smoke of the wings. 2 corks. $18

2006 Bonny Doon Le Cigare Blanc: A blend of grenache blanc and roussane, this California white had a charmingly floral aroma but tasted somewhat watery. The chicken wings gave the wine some sass. 2 corks. $18

© 2008, Chicago Tribune. courtesy of Bill Daley
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

The Lowdown on Fannie and Freddie - The Industry, Consumers

by Alexandra Zega

RISMEDIA, Sept. 10, 2008-(MCT)-News of the federal government’s seizure of the nation’s two largest mortgage financing companies gave stocks a bounce this week and offered a glimmer of hope that the housing market will regain its footing, but economists and industry experts are split about how and when the takeover will affect taxpayers and consumers.

Consumers saw one potential gain Monday from the government’s weekend bailout of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as mortgage rates dropped about a quarter of a percentage point. But it was not clear that the takeover would free up mortgage money to ease the credit squeeze-which would help people buy houses that have languished on the market at reduced prices.

“In the short run, you might actually see some contraction” in available credit because of tightening lending standards, said Bob Walters, chief economist for Livonia-based Quicken Loans. But, he added, “in the long run, the fact that the government is stepping in to provide liquidity might help. But that’s going to take a while.”

Said Walters: “The real impact here is prevention. Had Fannie or Freddie failed, it would have been pretty catastrophic. What people don’t see is the real benefit.”

Both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are government-sponsored enterprises, or GSEs, which were created to help make home mortgages more affordable for homeowners. The companies buy mortgages from lenders and repackage them as securities they either sell to investors or hold. Many experts hold the view that loan rates will begin to decline because Fannie and Freddie will step up their buying of mortgages.

“The home buyer will not be harmed by this takeover and probably will be helped. The government can orderly liquidate” the two companies, said Richard Thomas, president of Sierra Mortgage in El Paso. “If they had shut down, it would have been catastrophic. The world would have come to an end. The mortgage market would have probably dried up completely” until the private market took over, he said.

Clearly, the takeover won’t solve the broader housing problems in Michigan and elsewhere. Slack sales, falling home prices, a collapse in new construction and a tidal wave of foreclosures following the subprime mortgage bust have burdened the U.S. housing market in the past couple of years.

Even so, a collapse of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and a drying up of mortgage money would have made all those problems much worse, Dana Johnson, chief economist for Dallas-based Comerica Inc., said Monday.

“I think the important point to make is that the whole intent of this is for the consumers not to notice,” he said of the bailout. “They would have noticed hugely if there had been a collapse of Fannie and Freddie, because it would have become very, very difficult for most consumers to get a new mortgage.”

Monday’s interest rate drop reflected investors’ easing worries over the fate of the two giant lenders, who together account for half or more of the money available for mortgage loans in the country. Fewer worries on Wall Street meant bankers on Main Street could lower rates to consumers. Many lenders were quoting rates Monday for 30-year, fixed-rate mortgages in the 6% range.

Eric Burgoon, senior vice president in Bank of America’s Troy regional headquarters, said it wasn’t clear how long the lower rates would last.

“Whether that’s a forever thing or a new level, it’s hard to say, but at least initially, we’ve seen a reduction in mortgage rates,” he said.

Consumers may notice one slightly more painful result soon. The government bailout means that terms are tightening for home-equity loans and other mortgage-type products.

In home-equity loans, Walters said, consumers will be able to borrow about 5% less against the value of their homes, based on the tighter standards set by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac under government control.

The FHFA will run the conservatorship, according to the government plan. Lockhart immediately ejected Fannie Mae Chief Executive Officer Daniel Mudd, 50, and Freddie CEO Richard Syron, 64, replacing them with Herbert Allison, 65, former CEO of TIAA-Cref, and David Moffett, 56, who was a U.S. Bancorp vice chairman.

“It’s clear that there was no other choice but to do a rescue type of operation,” said Neal Soss, chief economist at Credit Suisse in New York. “In the short term, it’s constructive because it will allow for some financing and home sales that wouldn’t have happened. In the long term, it raises the question of how intimately we want the government involved in directing the use of capital.”

“Unfortunately, the second part of the dilemma remains,” said Joan McCullough, a macro strategist who studies market trends at East Shore Partners, a research firm in Hauppauge, NY said. “That is to address the U.S. consumer and his ability to overcome uncertain headwinds, such as inflationary pressures, a poor jobs picture, insufficient wages and still-oppressive costs of the necessities of life.”

Government officials and experts said it’s too early to estimate how much taxpayers will have to shoulder. That will depend on how well Fannie and Freddie perform and how much Treasury money is needed to shore up the companies.

“Just the way that this is structured, the taxpayer is going to have to pay for it,” said Alan Loewenstein, portfolio manager at American Fund Advisors in Great Neck, NY. “… How much? We’ll have to see later on.”

The impact on mortgage rates and the real estate market.

Most experts said mortgage rates should come down and banks will provide more home loans to consumers over time. But some say a long-term mortgage-rate drop is not a given. On Monday, the national average interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage fell 0.3 percentage points to 6.04.

What this means for those who want to refinance.

For consumers who are not in default, experts say it should make it easier because banks would be more willing to lend money, knowing that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will continue to buy their loans on the secondary market.

When consumers and the housing markets will begin to feel the takeover’s impact.

Experts said the takeover alone is not a cure for what ails the housing and credit markets-which some analysts believe have not hit bottom. Other factors, including a weak job market and inflation, are affecting the markets as well.

The expected cost.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson has not said what the full cost of the takeover will be on taxpayers. However, the seizure calls for an infusion of up to $100 billion in each of the companies.

The takeovers are designed to bring Fannie Mae, formed after the Great Depression and spun off in 1968, and Freddie Mac, created in 1970, back to their original mission: to provide affordable mortgages to home buyers.

Bloomberg News contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2008, Detroit Free Press; El Paso Times, Texas; Newsday, Melville, N.Y
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

Pre-travel Tips - What to Know Before You Go

by Alexandra Zega

98homespun_web.jpgRISMEDIA, Sept. 8, 2008-Before you go on your next trip, consider incorporating some of Avis’s pre-travel tips. After you think through the logistics, think through the toll it will take on you. Avis has a few simple solutions for avoiding long lines, finding your way around and enjoying the ride.

1. Research your destination

You’ll have a lot more fun if you know where to look for it. Read a few articles, pick up a couple travel guides and talk to friends or family who have been to your destination or who know someone that has. You may find Avis’s Quick City Guides helpful if you don’t have much time to devote to this part of your pre-travel.

2. Plan ahead for your transportation

You’ll feel more comfortable knowing there’s a plan in place when you’re ready to leave. Reserve a rental car, get your airline and train tickets or print out subway schedules well in advance. And ask about special services with your travel company. As with Avis Preferred ServiceTM, many airlines and train lines have ways that you can avoid standing in long lines.

3. Take along a GPS

Many new models, like the where2® GPS from Avis, offer more than just audible turn-by-turn directions. You can look up local attractions and restaurants, find traffic and weather reports and even airport information. With many GPS devices, like where2, you can pre-program your trip by saving your travel information to a Secure Digital (SD) memory card. Use the GPS to familiarize yourself with the roadways and major landmarks.

4. Make it fun

Even if you’re on business, be sure to schedule a little fun-or bring it with you. Download some new music or your favorite podcast. Or bring a great book and your favorite DVDs. If you’re renting a car, be sure you request a car that’s equipped for mp3-players or has xm® radio. Read up on all the services offered by your travel company. Avis offers free music downloads from emusic® when you rent a car with them. And they’ll even rent you a portable DVD player with their flicks-to-go® device.

5. Keep in touch while you’re away

Check with your hotel to make sure that you have Internet access in your room. And make sure you know where the nearest Wi-Fi hotspot is. Portable Wi-Fi devices, like Avis Connect®, might be another service your rental car company offers. And don’t forget to bring along your hands-free device and in-car cell phone charger if you’re planning to do a lot of driving.

6. Live like a local

Make a stop at the local coffee shop. The regular customers will probably be very helpful with tips and ideas for how to keep busy during your stay. The official city webpage will have some good tips and a quick online search may turn up some very useful local blogs. And check out for recommendations, directions, event listings and more.

You know what they say about a stitch in time. So for your next trip, plan to spend a little extra time ahead of time. Keep these simple suggestions in mind and you just might be amazed at how it will enhance your trip.

Displaying blog entries 1-4 of 4

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