Monthly Archives: December 2016

Keep Your Valuables Safe While Traveling

I was once a young naive traveler who often let my guard down while traveling. I didn’t want to be bothered with worrying about my things getting stolen. These days I travel with a lot more expensive electronics than I did in my younger years, so my level of comfort has changed.

Let me tell you a little story. I once knew a girl who had been traveling all over Western Europe by herself. Towards the end of her trip she got sick with the flu. While feeling miserable during a train ride from Prague to Amsterdam, she found a cabin all to herself, put on her headphones, and fell asleep to the melodic sounds coming from her ipod.

She felt safe inside her cabin since nobody else was there to steal her things. She was very smart to bring a money belt on this trip, but after the first couple weeks of travel, she decided it was unnecessary. In the midst of feeling tired and sick, she left her money belt in her travel backpack, which was right next to her while she was sleeping.

The next morning she awoke in Amsterdam feeling groggy and extremely sick. While exiting the train, she reached into her money belt to grab a few Euros to buy a croissant.

“What the hell?!” Where is the 250 Euro I had in here?”

After running the events of the previous night on the train through her head, she recalled waking up a few times to German men in uniforms opening the cabin doors, pointing flashlights into the cabin, then closing the doors. “They are just security officers, checking on things,” she thought.

Well, they sure did check on things. They also helped themselves to 250 Euros from the girl’s backpack. They were nice enough to leave her passport and ATM card. Thank god for that!!

Okay, so if you hadn’t already figured it out, that story was about my younger self. I’m a little ashamed that I actually let that happen and that I wasn’t more careful. In order to help out other travelers, I’ve put together a short list of tips for keeping your belongings safe.

Tips For Keeping Your Belongings Safe While Traveling:

  • While Sleeping on a train, bus, crowded hostel room, or any other public place, always keep your money, passport, credit cards and camera memory cards on you. Preferably in a money belt. Most likely you will wake up if somebody tries reaches down your pants while you are sleeping. At least I hope so.
  • Always keep your valuables (ie. camera, laptop, or anything else you don’t want stolen) with you. Don’t put them under the bus or give them to a taxi/van driver offering to put your bags in the trunk. I always keep my bag on my lap. I also keep a couple different stashes of money and credit cards. I keep most of my cash and cards on me (in my bra or money belt) and the other half somewhere hidden in my bag — that way I won’t be stuck with zero money if something happens. The only exception to this rule is when I’m sleeping in a public place (in this case, I keep everything in my money belt.
  • If I’m sleeping on a train or in a public place, I use a lock or PacSafe for my small backpack and lock it to something secure or sleep with my arms around it. I also recommend this slashproof backpack when riding on public transportation. (Oh, and I would suggest not listening to your headphones while sleeping in a public place.) Check out our Pac Safe Camera Bag Protector Review.
  • I now use a small PacSafe purse when walking around in a city. It’s big enough to carry my wallet, passport, phone, and a few other items. I’ve also tried the bra stash when I don’t want to carry around a purse. I have sensitive skin and the Eagle Creek bra stash doesn’t irritate my skin.If I decide I don’t want to bring a small backpack on day trips, I’ll carry this padded camera bag.
  • When booking a hotel or hostel, make sure it has good reviews when it comes to security and they offer a locker or in-room safe.
  • I always purchase travel insurance and make sure it covers my valuables if something were to happen. I use World Nomads because they have a great reputation. They also offer insurance for digital nomads who want extra coverage for things like laptops, camera gear, phones, and iPads. You can also look into covering these items if you have a homeowners or renter’s policy on your home.
  • Don’t get wasted and walk around alone in unfamiliar territory. (Which is something I also did in Amsterdam, but luckily nothing bad happened).

Common Travel Scams to Look Our For While Traveling:

  • Be on the look out for anybody who is offering to help you with your bags at a train or bus station. We once had a guy who didn’t seem to work at the station, but was offering to help people with translating the announcements and informing them when their train had arrived.When our train arrived he followed us to our cabin and offered to put our bags on the top shelf for us. I refused to hand over my small bag. I later realized he was probably going through people’s bags as he was putting them up top because you couldn’t see from outside the cabin.
  • South America and other parts of the world have their fair share of scammers looking to steal your money and valuables. Swindlers can create elaborate plans to trick you into letting down your guard and steal your belongings before you even know what hit you.A friend of ours got his money and passport stolen while trying to leave Argentina. The scam involved three people. The first part of the plan was to put a white cream on the back of our friend’s shirt without him knowing. Then an older lady informed him there was something on his shirt and offered him a tissue to wipe it off.He took off his backpack in order to reach the back of his shirt. When he turned around, he saw a man running away with his bag and he wasn’t able to catch up with him quick enough to eliminate losing his passport, money and camera. He was then forced to stay in the country and endure the long and expensive process of getting another passport.
  • Be aware of your surroundings at all times. If something seems out of the ordinary, just keep walking and don’t take off your bag for anything.

I’m not saying the world is a horrible place or that you should be scared to travel. As long as you are careful while traveling and stay aware of your surroundings, especially in transit, you will be fine and able to enjoy your travels. These are just a few tips and stories that might help you avoid the same mistakes others have made. Ninety to ninety five percent of the time you don’t need to worry and you will encounter genuinely friendly people.

Solutions for Your Laundry Troubles

Though you’ve probably done enough loads to consider yourself a laundry expert, sometimes a blouse or a set of curtains comes along with a stain so stubborn that it makes you rethink everything you thought you knew. Luckily there are real experts, and they’re here to solve your biggest laundry troubles.

THE FIX: Rewash it, but skip the soap. Then dry it on low heat for a longer time with a tennis ball (or two) wrapped in socks. Down that isn’t fully dry—or totally rinsed of detergent residue—can set in clumps, says Karin Sun, a cofounder of the luxury bedding brand Crane & Canopy (craneandcanopy.com). If you don’t have large-capacity machines, you may want to haul the comforter to the Laundromat. (A queen or king size needs tumbling space for even distribution.) While drying, pull out the duvet every 30 minutes or so to shake it and massage out developing clumps. Be patient: Duvets take at least three to four hours to dry. To prevent lumps, shake out weekly, and wash only once a year, says Shannon Maher, an assistant professor of home-product development at the Fashion Institute of Technology, in New York City.

Related: Feng Shui Decorating Tips

“When I wash my sheets, they twist into a rope.” — Carolyn, via e-mail

THE FIX: Launder each set of sheets separately (not the whole family’s sheets all at once). Also, include smaller garments, like underwear and tees, in each load, says Stephanie Hutaff, the director of product marketing for laundry care at Bosch. Long items can intertwine as they move with the flow of the circulating water, says Donna Smallin Kuper, the author of The One-Minute Cleaner. But if you mix in small pieces of fabric, which have different tumble patterns, the load will tend not to entangle. Besides the annoyance factor, twisted sheets can rip if the material winds too tightly, especially around the agitator in a top-loading machine, and stubborn wrinkles that won’t come out in the dryer can set in. Always wash sheets on a gentle cycle to reduce the agitation, and never cram them into the machine. Shake them out first and place them in loosely.

“My clothes pill and collect lint every time I put them through the washer and dryer.” — Cher, via e-mail

THE FIX: Sort laundry strategically to prevent fuzz from proliferating. Wash major lint producers (towels, terry-cloth robes) in one load, medium lint producers (corduroys, fleece jackets, sweaters) in another, and low lint producers (jeans, dress shirts, exercise gear, T-shirts) in a third, says Jim Kirby, the chief fabric-testing analyst for the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute, in Laurel, Maryland. To lessen pilling, turn clothing inside out, use the gentle cycle, and be careful not to over-stuff the machine. (Fill to only 80 percent capacity.) Set the dryer at a low temperature, and remove clothes as soon as they’re dry. The friction of dry fabrics rubbing against one another creates additional fuzz balls, says Dean Brindle, the director of laundry-product marketing at Samsung. After every load, clean the lint filter, and—if you’re really ambitious—wipe down the interiors of the washer and the dryer with a damp cloth. This step staves off lint buildup in the machines.

Related: 3 Easy Gardening Hacks to Get You Ready for Spring

“I don’t use bleach, but my colored towels still come out of the wash covered with spots.” — Luna, via e-mail

THE FIX: You probably only think you’re not using bleach. “Many products we use in the bathroom, from shower cleaners to toothpaste to acne medication, contain bleaching agents,” says Lorraine Muir, the director of textile testing for the Drycleaning & Laundry Institute, in Laurel, Maryland. “When you transfer these products from your hands to the fabric, and the fabric interacts with water, the material will stain.” To avoid ruining new towels (alas, the spotted ones are a lost cause), inspect the bathroom for sneaky bleachers. Anything that claims to whiten, brighten, or disinfect or that contains benzoyl peroxide, hydrogen peroxide, sodium perborate, sodium percarbonate, or chlorine could be a culprit. Once you find the offenders, remember to wash your hands thoroughly after using them and to store colored towels somewhere safe from inadvertent spills and splashes. Or, for the ultimate in prevention, stock the bathroom with white towels only.

Related: The One Thing In Your Home That You’re Probably Forgetting to Clean

“I washed a shirt with a name-tag sticker on it and the glue left white flecks behind.” — Mary, via e-mail

THE FIX: If the shirt is made of natural fibers, spread it out on a table and place a towel behind the stain; check that the glue is dry. Dab clear acetone nail-polish remover onto a cloth and rub it into the glue, says John Mahdessian, the president of Madame Paulette, a New York City dry cleaner. The white spots should vanish quickly. For synthetic fabrics, stick the shirt in the freezer for an hour to harden the glue, says Gwen Whiting, a cofounder of the Laundress line of cleaning products. Pick off what you can, then wet the shirt and rub it with a microfiber cloth and a little dish soap to remove any residue. Soak the garment in warm water for 20 minutes, then air-dry.

“My towels are stiff, even though I have soft water” — B. Wilkinson, via e-mail

THE FIX: Wash towels in hot water with only the recommended amount of detergent, and skip the liquid fabric softener, says Mary Marlowe Leverette, the laundry expert for About.com; The roughness could be from detergent residue. Still not soft? Add a cup of distilled white vinegar to the rinse cycle next time. It can break down leftover gunk.

Find Cheap Flights With Google Home

Since its rollout in November of last year, Google Home has served as a valuable resource for travelers of all kinds, from the solo business flier to the family vacationer. The voice-activated speaker and home assistant can check your flight status, find restaurants anywhere in the world, and even teach you some new phrases in a foreign language.

And now it can also track plane ticket prices so users can find the best price for their upcoming trips.

The Google Home is powered by Google Assistant, and it works by voice commands, starting with “OK Google.” To track flights, users simply start by asking, for instance, “OK Google, how much are flights to Paris?”

Google Home will then follow up with questions about which dates you hope to travel and send you an email to confirm your price alert. Voilà.

Google Flights will then send emails about the proposed trip whenever the price changes significantly, so users can make an informed decision about when to buy and when to fly.

Other helpful travel capabilities of the device include the ability to inquire about visa requirements in specific countries, find up-to-date currency conversions, and search attractions in a particular country or city.

Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa can perform similar tasks when it comes to finding restaurants or information about a destination, but neither have price-tracking abilities.

Alexa has an edge over Siri when it comes to apps and travel-oriented tasks, as it can call an Uber or Lyft ride if you’re rushing to get to the airport. Like Google Home, Alexa can also get translations and track existing flight reservations.