Travel

3 Common Mistakes to Avoid When Planning a Holiday Road Trip

By Alison Stanton

It's official: Your time-off request has been approved, and with the holidays fast approaching, you and the family are ready to head out to spend some quality time with grandma and grandpa.

But before you head over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house, it's important to ensure your vehicle can withstand the harsh winter conditions. Check out the following three common mistakes people make when planning a cold-weather road trip and what you should do instead.

1. Assuming Your Vehicle Can Handle Winter Weather

If your car is humming along nicely on the way to work and/or school, you might assume it will be able to handle a road trip with ease. However, going a few miles to and from work is vastly different than driving hundreds of miles in winter weather. Prior to leaving, schedule a winter tune-up at your mechanic to ensure your:

  • Anti-freeze and other fluid systems are topped off
  • Spark plugs are replaced
  • Windshield wipers are in good condition

Additionally, you'll want to inspect your tires carefully for any rot or damage. Beyond having plenty of quality tread, also check the brand of your tires to determine whether they're designed to handle slick and icy road conditions. If your tires are showing signs of baldness and aren't designed for harsh conditions, invest in four, new winter performance tires before you skip town.

Not sure where to turn with your trip fast approaching? Check out resources like TireBuyer.com to shop for tires meant to handle snow and ice. The online retailer offers a variety of winter-ready tires at affordable prices.

2. Not Checking the Weather Report

You and your family may be chomping at the bit to leave and see grandma and grandpa as soon as possible. But before heading out, be sure to check the seven-day forecast for your impending route.

It's possible a snowstorm may hit the areas in which you plan to travel. If this is the case — and, more importantly, you know this information well in advance — you can delay your trip by a day or two instead of ending up being stranded along the way.

Looking for a trusty resource? Check the conditions and forecast by using the National Weather Service as a resource. Through this website, you can enter your current location and destination to find out if any inclement weather is headed your way.

3. Forgetting to Pack an Emergency Roadside Kit

You may assume having your vehicle thoroughly checked over — and with four new winter tires — means you won't experience any issues on the open road. Unfortunately, despite your best efforts and intentions, you may wind up getting stuck along the way.

For example, your options will be severely limited if an accident involving multiple vehicles shuts down a portion of the highway for several hours. Additionally, you could experience unexpected car issues or have the battery go dead. Talk about a holiday downer.

Before leaving on your trip, pack an emergency roadside kit that includes plenty of warm blankets, extra food and water, and Thermoses filled with hot drinks like coffee and cocoa. Additionally, keep your smartphone fully charged, and try not to let your gas tank dip below half full.

Have a Great Time!

With some proper planning, you're bound to enjoy a safe and fun winter road trip that will provide you and your family with plenty of lifelong memories. Just be sure to give grandma a big ol' hug when you get there.

 

About the Author: Alison has been a freelance writer for the past 15 years. She enjoys writing about a wide variety of topics, and always looks for opportunities to learn about new subjects.


Veterans Day 2017: Where to Celebrate

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Veterans are the nation’s protectors, the defenders of American ideals and freedom. This Veterans Day marks the 99th year of celebrating these military heroes, both past and present, and collectively thanking them for their sacrifice. Veterans Day, originally Armistice Day until 1954, is a day to show appreciation for those who have served as soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and coast guardsmen for the branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. This year, in particular, is made more significant in that it is the first to celebrate not only veterans for one day, but veterans and their families for the entire month of November, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Celebrations honoring Veterans Day take place across the country. Below is a list of just a few of the events happening across the nation to celebrate the brave men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces:

Arlington, VA— Arlington National Cemetery is the final resting place for hundreds of fallen service members and is exalted as a national landmark honoring the nation’s heroes. The Veterans Day National Ceremony is held at the Cemetery each year on Veterans Day beginning at exactly 11:00 a.m. The opening ceremony, which includes a wreath laying at the Tomb of the Unknowns, “is intended to honor and thank all who served in the United States Armed Forces.” To plan a trip to the Arlington National Cemetery or for more information on the Veterans Day events taking place there, click here.

Simi Valley, CA— The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library will be hosting its annual Veterans Day Event today, November 10th. The renowned Library’s commemorative activities will include live musical entertainment, a public showcase of military vehicles, a Civil War encampment reenactment and a special program to honor veterans from each branch of service. To learn more about the Library and/or its Veterans Day celebration, click here.

Branson, MO— The self-proclaimed host of Veterans Homecoming Week is the largest Veterans Day celebration in the country. The week leading up to Veterans Day is packed with activities to honor veterans and their families, including a Blue Star Mothers Afternoon Dessert and POW/MIA Service of Remembrance. For more information, be sure to check out the website here.

Philadelphia, PA—The birthplace of America is keen on honoring its nation’s heroes for Veterans Day. Earlier this month, the city held its third annual Philadelphia Veterans Day Parade to kick off the celebrations. On Veterans Day, the Constitution Center will host the Macy’s Family Day to honor veterans, which includes free admission to the museum, writing thank you post cards to veterans, a flag raising ceremony and more. To learn more about the Veterans Day events happening at the Constitution Center, check out the website here.

New York, NY— With 1.6 million veterans in the New York City/Tri-Sate area, the Big Apple’s Veterans Week NYC is an initiative designed to highlight New York City’s commitment to veterans and the military community as a whole, including military families. New York City's Veterans Week events are geared toward promoting issues faced by veterans and their loved ones as well as providing resources to help veterans transition from the military to the civilian world. For more information about Veterans Week NYC, click here.

Honoring the nation’s retired and active service members is an important bastion of the American people, as reflected by the number and grandeur of the events nationwide. This is a small way for Americans everywhere to thank veterans, whether currently serving or having served. How does your hometown commemorate Veterans Day?

This Veterans Day, Travel Insurance Services thanks all of our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen for their service and sacrifice. 


Take a nice trip this fall

As colder temperatures sweep across the country and the leaves are set aflame with color, the U.S. settles in with the arrival of autumn in all of its pumpkin spice-scented glory. Many think of fall’s predecessor or its successor as the ideal times to travel for various reasons, whether summer beach vacations or the winter holidays. However, the fall season has its own charms to offer any vacationer looking to get away. Here are just a few of the top places to travel for a full fall experience:

Vermont

Northeast Region: Montpelier, Vermont—There many locations throughout the various regions of Vermont with world famous views of the changing leaves. Whether you choose to conquer one of the many hiking trails the Green Mountain state has to offer, enjoy one of its eclectic art events, or tour its scenic byways, Vermont has something to offer for everyone. For more information on places to visit in Vermont during the fall season, including two maps for the current conditions and forecasting the fall foliage, click here.

 

Washington

West Region: Washington—
The Pacific Northwest is famous for its landscapes among other things. Therefore the fall season is a prime time to visit the region, particularly the state of Washington. Set the stage at the Cascade Loop Scenic Highway:“[c]olorful sights include the vibrant yellow larches of Ross Lake, the golden-grassy farmland of Winthrop and blazing yellow-red maple vines in Leavenworth,” according to ExperienceWA.com. In addition to scenic overlooks along these and the many other drives, Washington offers hiking opportunities, like Wallace Falls near Gold Bar, as well as fall festivals, such as Autumn Leaf Festival in Leavenworth. To learn about other scenic drives in Washington for your next fall time excursion, check out this article.

  St. Paul

Midwest Region: Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota—According to Travel Channel, Minneapolis-St. Paul offers a plethora of fall fun opportunities. The area offers a “scenic leaf-peeping drive” using either the Minnehaha Parkway in Minneapolis or Summit Avenue in St. Paul. If you prefer to get closer to nature, Minnesota’s Fort Snelling State Park and Afton State Park give hikers and bikers that chance. To learn more about the different autumn scenic views, sports activities, shopping and more — click here.

  Grand canyon

Southwest: The Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona—The Grand Canyon National Park is hailed as one of the country’s most popular parks with approximately 5.9 million people visiting the 277 mile wonder last year alone, according to National Geographic. U.S. News & World Report suggests that the best times to visit the park are either in the spring between March and May or in the fall between September and November. During the fall, the temperatures cool down and the summer crowds disperse, leaving more hotel rooms and trails available as you enjoy the beauty of the Canyon. To plan your trip the Grand Canyon National Park, visit the National Park Service website here.

  New orleans

Southeast: New Orleans—New Orleans, also known as the Big Easy, “keeps locals and visitors busy with countless events from late September through November…,” according to Travel Channel. From the city’s own Oktoberfest or its famed Oak Street Po-Boy Festival to the Louisiana Seafood Festival and the Voodoo Music Festival, the city has something for everyone to enjoy during the fall season. For more information about the best times to travel to the Big Easy, check out this article from U.S. New and World Report.

Outside of this list, there are many places across the United States that offer fall enthusiasts spectacular views of the changing leaves, traditional hay rides, fall festivals, Halloween celebrations and more. Wherever you travel, USI Travel Insurance Services is here to help protect not only your travel plans, but also your experience. For information on how Travel Insurance Services can protect your trip, visit our website here.


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When Natural Disasters Affect Your Travel Plans

Take a moment to consider: once busy streets, alive with passersby enjoying the seemingly endless sunshine, now rivers of murky water and debris. Within the last few weeks, Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria and Jose have devastated Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico and the Caribbean Islands. Millions of people have been displaced and millions of travelers have had their travel plans derailed or even canceled.

So, what did we learn amid the chaos?

As a result of the recent hurricanes, travel insurance companies have experienced a sudden influx of travel-related claims from many of their policy holders. Luckily for many travelers, airlines and lodging facilities often offer full refunds for trips to areas affected by natural disasters when they can’t render the services that were purchased. As such, insurance companies do not see as much of a jump in Trip Cancellation insurance claims in these circumstances. However, Trip Interruption and Travel Delay claims typically spike during disasters like the ones experienced in the last few weeks.

  • Trip Cancellation
    Your insurance will generally reimburse you for any non-refundable, pre-paid trip payments or deposits, up to the amount insured, if cancellation occurs before scheduled departure because of unforeseen circumstances covered by the plan.
  • Trip Interruption
    Your insurance reimburses non-refundable, pre-paid and unused trip payments if your trip is interrupted after departure because of covered circumstances. And here’s the best part – coverage includes reimbursement for additional transportation expenses to re-join the trip or return back home.
  • Travel Delay
    If your trip is delayed beyond the minimum time specified in the plan and for a covered reason, you will be reimbursed up to the plan limits for reasonable expenses.

The Early Bird Gets the Worm

Many travel insurance policies do cover natural disasters, such as hurricanes, that may impact a traveler’s plans. However, this particular coverage often comes with the stipulation that the policy must have been purchased before the storm was named. So, those who are proactive with their travel insurance purchase tend to fare better with receiving Trip Cancellation, Trip Interruption, and Travel Delay benefits than those who wait to purchase insurance.

It is reasonable to assume that the advent of these disasters will continue to affect the travel insurance industry as travelers become more conscious of how forces out of their control can derail any well laid travel plan. And it’s not just natural disasters – anything from terrible weather to a family medical emergency can ruin careful planning and bring your trip to an end before it even begins.

Having a travel insurance policy in place with Trip Cancellation, Trip Interruption and Travel Delay clauses can help protect you from losing your financial investment in your trip regardless of the situation. USI Affinity Travel Insurance Services offers plan options to fit your individual needs as a traveler. For example, with the Travel Insurance Select plan, travelers receive the following benefits and non-insurance services:

  • Coverage for Trip Cancellation - Be reimbursed up to 100% of the money you invested in your trip.
  • Coverage for Trip Interruption - Recover up to 150% of your trip costs, depending on the plan you choose.
  • Coverage and services on Emergency Medical Evacuation, Missed Connections, and more
  • 24-hour access to Emergency Assistance Services – No matter where you are, you have help when you need it.

Life is unpredictable no matter how well you plan, but you can be prepared. Consider protecting your next trip with travel insurance.

For more information about the options offered by USI Affinity Travel Insurance Services to protect your next trip, click here.


Abby

How to Prepare for an Epic (Yet Safe!) Cross-Country Road Trip

By Abby Terlecki

A cross-country road trip can be the adventure of a lifetime. Travel writer Paul Theroux calls the "Great American road trip ... the supreme example of the journey as the destination." Theroux has traveled the world, yet his wanderlust always circled back to the America he had not yet discovered.

To be on the move on the open road feels like freedom and a dream for many. And if you have Theroux's spirit, the road pulls you toward all there is to explore, from the bustling streets of LA to the rolling hills of West Virginia and all the beauty in between.

Navigating new territory requires the right preparations though, even in your homeland. A lack of a planning could turn your dream trip into a nightmare, so make sure to incorporate the following into your cross-country road trip prep:

Avoid an Auto Breakdown

The unforeseen is inevitable during a long road trip, but car trouble is one mishap that you don’t want to experience. The best way to avoid auto distress is to prepare with a car inspection. The DMV recommends checking tire pressure, air filter, battery, and fluids, including automatic transmission, coolant, brake, power steering and windshield washer fluids. Check DMV.org for more pre-maintenance tips, so your trip doesn’t become a mechanical disaster.

Know the Rules of the Road Across State Lines

Along with car maintenance, you’ll want to make sure that your driving knowledge is up-to-speed, since road signs, rules of the road and speed limits vary by states. Learning state-specific information, such as local traffic laws and safe driving practices, will help ensure that you’ll cruise through states problem-free. A traffic violation ticket can certainly interrupt the good vibes of your trip.

Research and Create an Itinerary

A solid itinerary backed by good research keeps you on track and ensures you hit up the most unforgettable destinations. Consider an itinerary to serve as your travel tool guiding you along your adventure, from experiencing the New England coast to soaking in the beauty of the Grand Canyon.

  • Explore your possibilities with a good old-fashioned atlas that can identify good routes or back roads
  • Buy travel guides or connect with a travel agency to learn about landmarks and hidden gems you may never have considered
  • Use Road Trip USA and the Jetsetter app as excellent resources to guide your dream trip planning
  • Invest in an America the Beautiful pass for access to national parks and federal recreational sites
  • Talk to the locals along the way! Recommendations from the locals can lead you to the best restaurants, activities, and sites
  • Download the HotelTonight app to find great deals for booking a hotel last minute in a moment of spontaneity

Pay the Right Way

Despite what PayPal tells you, it’s best not to “buy a tropical vacation now” and “pay for it later.” Funding your trip on your credit card creates bad debt, comes with high interest rates and can kill your credit score (not to mention support bad financial habits). The healthiest strategy is to save by making a public goal and automatically transferring funds into a separate travel savings account, for example. Viktor Vincej of Traveling Lifestyle breaks down saving tips, tricks and hacks for traveling at a reasonable cost. See what he recommends for transportation, accommodation, food and more.

Pack like a Pro

Packing can be the bane of a traveler's existence. Start to organize your packing by making your own list or following one online. Pack your belongings in various bags of different sizes (rather than one large suitcase), so you can re-pack a small bag for a hotel room or Airbnb rental with only the essentials specific to the weather and activities of those travel days. Don’t forget to put together an emergency kit with a spare tire/car jack, water, first-aid kit and healthy snacks to avoid picking up junk foods at gas stations.

Be Protected from the Unexpected

It’s easy to follow the adage “it’ll never happen to me,” especially when it comes to insurance. This additional cost can seem like a waste, but the risk can be costly. Travel protection helps ensure you're covered in the event of illness, injury and other emergencies. USI Travel Insurance Services offers Voyager annual travel insurance for frequent travelers who want to take a cross-country road trip — here in the U.S. or abroad. Voyager can help prevent financial loss in the event of a medical emergency, evacuation, travel delay, trip interruption or baggage loss as you cross borders via plane, vehicle, train or boat.

 

About the author:

Abby Terlecki is a marketing copywriter for a university in Phoenix, Ariz. After work, Abby heads to happy hour at her CrossFit gym—her sanctuary of strength where she fell in love with the barbell. In between writing and lifting, Abby loves to explore the Grand Canyon state, indulge in great food and drive west to the beach. Abby earned her journalism degree from Ohio University and has since made the desert her happy home.