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TRAVEL TIPS

 

Retain your boarding pass

After an airplane flight take your boarding pass home and shred it, as the bar codes on it contain personal information you want to keep to yourself. In the wrong hands, it could lead to identity theft, stolen credentials and banking information. There are many apps and websites that can extract the data stored on the barcodes.

 

Use public Wi-Fi? A new free VPN makes it secure

There may be malware lurking behind those suspicious links and ads, phishing scams can trick you into entering private information into a fake website, keyloggers can track every character you type, and more.

That's why it's never a good idea to use public Wi-Fi, especially if you're not being extremely cautious. But it sure is tempting, isn't it? While you're sipping coffee at a Starbucks or waiting for your plane at the airport, like anyone else, you want to jump on your smartphone, tablet or laptop to browse the Internet.

Because there are so many threats that could infect a network with viruses, or expose private information to unwanted individuals, many networks block certain types of content to reduce those risks. But there are ways to get around this, while still keeping yourself safe.

One of the best ways to keep your browsing secure is by using a Virtual Private Network, or VPN. A VPN works by encrypting your connection, which keeps your activity private. It also hides your physical location and IP address when you browse.

A VPN service lets you create an encrypted connection with one of its servers and you use that server to browse the Internet. The connection is encrypted through the server, so the VPN can't see your traffic either.

You may have heard of something called a Virtual Private Network or VPN, for short, as a way to boost your online security, especially when connecting to public Wi-Fi networks. It is also a good way to hide your internet tracks from would-be snoops.

Simply put, a VPN service lets you create an encrypted connection with one of its servers, and you use that server to browse the internet. The connection is encrypted through the server, so the VPN can't see your traffic either. OK, it's a bit more complicated than that behind the scenes, but that's the result.

Think of it as a middleman that provides a tunnel between you and the websites you're visiting. With a VPN, your IP address can be concealed from prying eyes, even from your ISP, so your browsing activity can't be readily tracked to you.

A VPN is extremely useful when connecting to public Wi-Fi spots since it prevents snoops from intercepting your web traffic. Using one can also cloak your activity from advertisers, hackers and even spying from government agencies or your ISP.

Although using a VPN is a good way to increase your security, there are trade-offs. First, since your connection is passing through the VPN service and making more stops, your browsing experience may slow down.

Second, depending on the country your VPN service is routing you to, some activities that are blacked out in certain regions may be inaccessible to you.

Third, using a VPN doesn't guarantee that your identity is 100 percent secure. Most VPN services claim that their connections are encrypted and they don't keep activity logs but it's still prudent to stay careful with your online activities even when going through a VPN.

Ready? Here are 2017's top free VPN services you can try right now:


Windscribe

Windscribe VPN is another service you can try. It claims to be "more privacy-obsessed" than its competitors and the company maintains that it deletes all your tracks three minutes after your session closes.

Their free service also has a high monthly cap of 10GB and a choice of eight server locations. It even has an ad-blocker and firewall built-in.

To start using Windscribe, you are required to sign up for an account by providing a username, password, and an optional email (required for the 10GB allotment). To get even more power-user features, you can upgrade to Windscribe's unlimited plan and get unlimited data and connections from over 45 locations.

Windscribe is available for Mac, Windows, iPhone or as a Chrome extension (unfortunately, no Android app yet).

TunnelBear

TunnelBear provides fast, simple, lightweight and easy-to-use VPN software and add-ons.

Its free version allows for only 500MB of data a month but you can upgrade and pay for its unlimited "Giant" premium plan. For safety, TunnelBear has a "Vigilant Mode" that blocks all traffic until the VPN service is reconnected, vital when moving from network to network. Users can also configure it to start automatically when a computer boots up.

To use TunnelBear's service, keep in mind that users are required to create a free TunnelBear account with a valid email address first.

TunnelBear is available for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android and as a browser add-on/extension for Chrome and Opera.

Speedify

Speedify prides itself on its speed, even while on an encrypted VPN connection. It achieves this by combining all your available internet connections while still encrypting your connection with the latest technology available.

Aside from its speed, it also claims it has a strict "no log" policy, meaning they don't save any persistent user data on their servers.

Speedify's free version gives away 1GB worth of data each month (4GB worth of data for the first month of new users) but you can upgrade to its unlimited data plans.

It is available for Windows, Mac, Android and iOS.

Save Your data while traveling

If you're like most people, you can't imagine your everyday life without your smartphone. Sure, you might complain that your children or grandkids always seem to be staring at a glowing-blue screen.

But you probably stare at your smartphone, too. Don't feel guilty about that (but do be careful).

Smartphones are a fact of life. You use them for GPS directions in the car. You use them to take photos and videos and, of course, you get updates on your family and friends on Facebook, Instagram and other social media sites.

One great thing about smartphones is that it's so easy to use Wi-Fi for free, to avoid using up your data plan. You most likely have Wi-Fi at home but you can find FREE Wi-Fi just about everywhere these days, whether it's your hotel room, a restaurant or shopping center.

If you travel, you use Wi-Fi to stay connected when you're in an airplane or halfway around the world. The problem is, Wi-Fi isn't always free when you're overseas. In fact, you can get socked with big roaming charges.

Before you hit the road, call your cellphone provider to ask about extra charges you may incur when you're traveling. Then, follow these four steps to make sure you don't come home to a shocking cellphone bill.

1. Google Maps Offline

How often do use Google Maps? You probably use it all the time.

It's a great way to feel safe. You know you'll get to your destination without getting lost or stopping in dangerous locations to ask for directions.

You probably know that using maps churns through your data plan. So, if you're traveling where you will pay to access maps, make sure you download a map of your location.

You can do that at home, too. Once downloaded, you can use an offline map of your region without any internet access.

Download Google Maps on Android: Open your Google Maps app while connected to the internet >> choose the location where you'll be traveling >> tap the name of your location >> Download >> Download Offline Map.

Download Google Maps on iPhone: Open your Google Maps app while connected to the internet >> choose the location where you'll be traveling >> tap the name of your location >> Save Map to Use Offline (or it may say Download).

2. Turn Off Automatic Downloads

There's a good chance you don't even pay attention to your apps automatically downloading on your smartphone. Apps automatically download so often that it's just part of everyday life.

That's fine when you're using free Wi-Fi. It's not so fine when you're paying lots of money on your vacation to do it. So, turn off those automatic downloads.

Android: Google Play Store >> tap 3-line menu icon on upper left side >> Settings >> Auto Update Apps >> select Do Not Auto-Update Apps.

iPhone: Settings >> iTunes & App Store >> Automatic Download >> turn off Apps.

3. Download Music

Have you ever found yourself on a long trip and realized you don't have any music to listen to? Not good!

If you're on a plane, you can pay to use their Wi-Fi to listen to tunes. That can be expensive. But then you get desperate when you're in the air for six, seven, eight or more hours.

Don't find yourself in that situation. Instead, open your music app. Go to the menu and look for an option to download music. If you're home or you're safely using free public Wi-Fi, download the music you'll want to listen to on vacation.

Tip in a Tip: Apps to get the best musical experience

4. Turn Off Voicemail

If you're traveling to a part of the world where you'll be charged to receive phone calls, you will most likely be charged for calls that go to voicemail.

Instead, turn off your voicemail. The easiest way to do this is to call your cellphone provider's customer service line. Ask them if you'll be charged for incoming calls where you're traveling. If so, ask them to turn off voicemail for the duration of your trip.

There's a good chance your provider offers free international texting. If so, tell your family, friends and coworkers to stay in touch that way.


Bonus: Stay Safe When Traveling

No matter where you're using public Wi-Fi, whether it's at your local coffee shop or at a hotel in an exotic, faraway location, hackers and criminals can remotely watch what you're doing.

They can tap into your internet connection to see which websites you're visiting. They can see your bank account password and other personal information.

Instead, use a Virtual Private Network or VPN. These are encrypted web browsers like Opera VPN that scramble your information so that hackers can't see what you're doing. They disguise your device's IP address, so you can appear to be thousands of miles away.

Tech tips will change how you travel

If you love to travel, you can't help but notice that it's getting easier and faster to take a trip anywhere in the world. Sure, there is still a lot to groan about.

There will always be long security lines, over-zealous TSA agents, canceled trips and lost luggage, to name a few. Yet, the reality is that it's easier than ever to find cheap airfares and inexpensive hotels right from your smartphone.

You can see your entire trip on apps like Google Trips. And, despite the horror stories you've heard about lost luggage, the number of lost bags is going down as the number or airline trips is going up.

The improved conditions are due in large part to technology. Just think how time-consuming planning a trip used to be; before, you could schedule and pay for it online.

There's always room for improvement. But that's where these three fantastic travel innovations come in: They'll save you time, money and prevent headaches. That way, you can enjoy your vacation more than ever.

One more thing. Keep reading for a bonus travel innovation. This one will give you peace of mind knowing that all is safe back home when you're thousands of miles away.


Smart bag tags

Have you ever lost your luggage? If you did on an important business trip, it could ruin your entire trip.

If you lost luggage on vacation, you could be out hundreds of dollars. You can wait for days or weeks for airlines to find your bag and get it back to you. So, you're forced to spend money replacing lost clothes, toiletries and laptops.

If you're like most travelers, you write your name, phone number and mailing address on those little tags you find at the check-in counter. But that little piece of paper has never seemed like a good idea. Criminals can just tear it off. Your luggage can be gone forever.

In the 21st century, you can get microchip bag tags like SuperSmartTag. For just a few bucks, you can keep track of your luggage, no matter where in the world it is.

Each tag has a unique code. You input your contact information. If your bag is found, an airline employee or the person who finds it types in your code on the website to find your contact information.


You know that the airlines' frequent flyer miles are a great way to save money. The more you travel, the more frequent rewards you rack up. You might redeem your miles for an upgrade to first class or to take your wife on a trip to Hawaii.

One problem is that it's not that easy to keep track of all your frequent flyer programs. That's where 30K comes in.

You input all your frequent flyer programs into the web browser plugin. Then, when you're booking flights on airlines such as United on sites such as Expedia, you'll see how many miles you'll earn.


Samsara Smart Suitcase

If you travel a lot, this luggage is designed to make your life much easier. If you also love technology and live in fear of a dead smartphone battery, you'll absolutely want to give the Samsara Smart Suitcase a test run.

For starters, it's a lightweight and sturdy carry-on bag. It's made out of aluminum. It has four wheels - two on the top and two on the bottom. It moves where and how you need it to move.

But its tech features are its reason for being. It has a flat surface, so you can lay your laptop on it and comfortably do your work. You can charge your laptop and phone directly from ports in the bag. Plus, Samsara will alert your smartphone if your bag gets away from you or if someone opens it.

Note: Samsara has so far raised $276,000 on Kickstarter, far surpassing its $15,000 goal.


See what's going on at home

One of the greatest innovations for travelers is internet-connected home security systems. The best ones include webcams, so you can see what's going on inside your home when you're away.

You can watch and listen to live streaming HD videos from our sponsor SimpliSafe's SimpliCam. You can see what's going on at home from any internet-connected device, like your smartphone or laptop.

SimpliCam alerts you when it detects motion in your house. So, you have the peace of mind that everything is safe at home when you're not there.

There are many companies out there that offer 24/7 monitoring services, but we like SimpliSafe best because, not only does it provide superb protection, you don't have to commit to a long-term contract! In fact, you can protect your home and have peace of mind for as little as $15 per month. Click here to learn more about SimpliSafe's affordable 24/7 monitoring services.


 

If you love to travel, you can't help but notice that it's getting easier and faster to take a trip anywhere in the world. Sure, there is still a lot to groan about.

There will always be long security lines, over-zealous TSA agents, canceled trips and lost luggage, to name a few. Yet, the reality is that it's easier than ever to find cheap airfares and inexpensive hotels right from your smartphone.

You can see your entire trip on apps like Google Trips. And, despite the horror stories you've heard about lost luggage, the number of lost bags is going down as the number or airline trips is going up.

The improved conditions are due in large part to technology. Just think how time-consuming planning a trip used to be; before, you could schedule and pay for it online.

There's always room for improvement. But that's where these three fantastic travel innovations come in: They'll save you time, money and prevent headaches. That way, you can enjoy your vacation more than ever.

One more thing. Keep reading for a bonus travel innovation. This one will give you peace of mind knowing that all is safe back home when you're thousands of miles away.


Smart bag tags

Have you ever lost your luggage? If you did on an important business trip, it could ruin your entire trip.

If you lost luggage on vacation, you could be out hundreds of dollars. You can wait for days or weeks for airlines to find your bag and get it back to you. So, you're forced to spend money replacing lost clothes, toiletries and laptops.

If you're like most travelers, you write your name, phone number and mailing address on those little tags you find at the check-in counter. But that little piece of paper has never seemed like a good idea. Criminals can just tear it off. Your luggage can be gone forever.

In the 21st century, you can get microchip bag tags like SuperSmartTag. For just a few bucks, you can keep track of your luggage, no matter where in the world it is.

Each tag has a unique code. You input your contact information. If your bag is found, an airline employee or the person who finds it types in your code on the website to find your contact information.


You know that the airlines' frequent flyer miles are a great way to save money. The more you travel, the more frequent rewards you rack up. You might redeem your miles for an upgrade to first class or to take your wife on a trip to Hawaii.

One problem is that it's not that easy to keep track of all your frequent flyer programs. That's where 30K comes in.

You input all your frequent flyer programs into the web browser plugin. Then, when you're booking flights on airlines such as United on sites such as Expedia, you'll see how many miles you'll earn.


Samsara Smart Suitcase

If you travel a lot, this luggage is designed to make your life much easier. If you also love technology and live in fear of a dead smartphone battery, you'll absolutely want to give the Samsara Smart Suitcase a test run.

For starters, it's a lightweight and sturdy carry-on bag. It's made out of aluminum. It has four wheels - two on the top and two on the bottom. It moves where and how you need it to move.

But its tech features are its reason for being. It has a flat surface, so you can lay your laptop on it and comfortably do your work. You can charge your laptop and phone directly from ports in the bag. Plus, Samsara will alert your smartphone if your bag gets away from you or if someone opens it.

Note: Samsara has so far raised $276,000 on Kickstarter, far surpassing its $15,000 goal.


See what's going on at home

One of the greatest innovations for travelers is internet-connected home security systems. The best ones include webcams, so you can see what's going on inside your home when you're away.

You can watch and listen to live streaming HD videos from our sponsor SimpliSafe's SimpliCam. You can see what's going on at home from any internet-connected device, like your smartphone or laptop.

SimpliCam alerts you when it detects motion in your house. So, you have the peace of mind that everything is safe at home when you're not there.

There are many companies out there that offer 24/7 monitoring services, but we like SimpliSafe best because, not only does it provide superb protection, you don't have to commit to a long-term contract! In fact, you can protect your home and have peace of mind for as little as $15 per month. Click here to learn more about SimpliSafe's affordable 24/7 monitoring services.


 

When you're traveling, watch out for these scams!

1. Rigged baggage scales

Finding the best flight for your trip is hard work. On top of that, airports can be stressful. First stop? The ticketing counter. Here, you get your tickets and check your bags, which could be the most frustrating part.

Airlines charge an arm and a leg in baggage fees. Checked bags range between $20 to $45 and there's usually an additional average of $25 for overweight bags, and could go up to $100 in fees if your bag is that heavy (up to 100 pounds).

Those aren't easy fees to sneer at, so if your bags are over by a pound or two, the shuffle begins. Your daughter's hoodie gets transferred to your own suitcase, and your son's luggage now holds two extra pairs of shoes. But what if the problem was with the airport's scales and not your bags?

Tip within a tip: Rigged baggage scales aren't the only ways you can be scammed at the airport.

Scales age just like any other piece of technology. If not properly maintained or cared for, a scale could easily malfunction, lose accuracy and add or subtract weight as it pleases.

It's not a new problem, local media in Phoenix reported on the problem back in 2011, but with summer travel season here and in full swing, a friendly reminder couldn't hurt.

Avoiding this scam: When you arrive at the ticketing booth, make sure that the scale reads "0" before you put your luggage on it. If you are over and are still worried about the scale, demand that it is weighed on another one of the scales, which have also been zeroed out.

2. Free Wi-Fi scam

While waiting for your flight, it's tempting to use the public Wi-Fi to check your email or bank account, or even post a status update on Facebook, but you shouldn't.

The same rule applies whenever you're at your favorite coffee shop, bookstore or anywhere else free Wi-Fi is offered because you really don't know who might be spying on your online activity.

Using simple software and tools, someone sitting nearby can track what you're doing. Depending on what you're viewing online, this could give someone else access to the login information for your various accounts, including your passwords. It could also give them access to personal information, such as your social security number, address, date of birth, etc.

Avoiding this scam: The safest route is to not use public Wi-Fi for any browsing activities, no matter how small they might seem. Although it does use data from your monthly allowance, if you need to use your smartphone or tablet at the airport, it's best to connect through 4G or LTE.

You can take things even further by putting your phone into Airplane Mode even before you've reached the airport. But, if you must browse using a free public Wi-Fi network, we recommend that you use a VPN to encrypt your data.

3. VISA application scam

Different countries have different rules for entrance. Some require visitors to have a visa before entering their country.

A visa is normally a stamp or sticker placed inside your passport that authorizes you to be in certain countries.

Many nations only require a valid passport to visit. Others, like India for example, require a valid passport AND a valid visa to enter and exit for any purpose.

Bonus tip:

Some people might feel that they need help applying for one of these visas. There are companies, that for a relatively high fee, offer to help speed up this process.

Warning: this is a scam!

These companies do not have special tricks to expedite the visa application process. You need to go through the proper channels.

Avoiding this scam: The safest way to get a visa is to go through your destination country's consulate. You should be able to find visa application forms online. Print them, fill them out and either mail them or hand deliver them to the nation's local consulate.

Once the documents are processed, you will be sent a visa in the mail that attaches to your passport. This can take up to two months, so make sure that you plan well ahead.

If you do need help acquiring a visa, ask your travel agent. They will be able to assist you with this.

4. Passport application services scam

If you are heading out of the country and don't already have a passport, you will probably have to do an online search for an application. This could bring you to a number of sites offering their help in speeding up the process. They claim that you will receive your passport faster if you pay them a fee.

The reality is, this is a type of passport scam.

The U.S. State Department already offers these services for either a lower fee or none at all. In fact, the U.S. government has warned travelers about using one of these so-called passport expediting or courier services.

Avoiding this scam: According to the State Department, here are a few things you should know about courier companies:

You're much better off applying for a passport on your own.

Here, you can begin filling out your application online, find out where to apply in person, and check on your application status. You can also find out how to apply for an expedited passport in the case of a life or death emergency.

5. Third-party site hotel booking scam

Now that we're living in a digital world, it's super easy to get things done from the comfort of your own home. We no longer have to go to a travel agency to plan the next family vacation.

Everything we need is available online. You can book your own flights, hotels and rental cars with a few clicks of the mouse.

There is one thing in particular that you need to be aware of, though. Third-party hotel booking company scams.

We're not talking about online travel agencies like Expedia, Kayak or Orbitz. Those are reputable companies that aggregate their inventory directly from the actual hotels so you can select the right one for you.

Some of these third-party sites try to mimic what the official hotels' websites look like. The victim thinks they are booking and paying for a room directly with the hotel when in reality they are being ripped off.

Tip within a tip: Think you're a savvy tourist that can't be scammed? Think again.

Many times, these fake sites pop-up as paid ads when you do a search for hotels online. Do NOT click on them!

If you end up booking a hotel through one of these fake sites, here are some scenarios that could happen:

Avoiding this scam: Your best bet is to go through one of the trusted online travel agencies or search for a specific hotel online.

Never click on what looks like a paid ad booking site. Also, beware of links to websites. Many fake sites will use the name of a hotel in its link to make it appear official. For example, it will have the hotel name with 'reservation-desk' or something similar added to it.

                                                                             Address:Fantastic Villas

                                                                                           1482 E. Valley Rd. #325

                                                                                           Santa Barbara, CA 93108

                                                                          Text/Talk:805 448-6976

                                                                             E mail:   suzy@fantasticvillas.com

 

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