These Simple Rules Will Save You a Ton of Travel Stress

If you’re a frequent business traveler, you’ve likely picked up a few tips and tricks of your own for getting work done on the road and making time for yourself between meetings.

But one of the most persistent stressful elements of frequent travel is the constant packing and unpacking, which creates countless opportunities for something to get lost or forgotten. Expert travelers know that reducing stress on the road is not just about what you pack — it’s also about how you pack.

These “grab and go” kits will have you ready for easy and efficient travel at a moment’s notice.

Travel-Day Ensemble

There’s nothing worse than rushing the morning of an early flight to pick the best outfit, only to find yourself trapped in the air wearing an itchy or ill-fitting item for hours. Creating a go-to travel outfit ahead of time ensures you’ll have a comfortable flight experience, no matter what time you board.

Pick a comfortable outfit with a removable long-sleeved layer so you can account for chilly plane temperatures and quickly adjust to different weather from one stop to another. Opt for comfortable shoes and minimal jewelry for security speed and comfortable plane naps. Consider a comfy beanie or scarf that can be used as a personal nap pod or pillow, if need be.

If you know what you’re wearing each time you travel, you can reduce the time spent preparing on the morning of an early flight and eliminate the risk of trapping yourself in the air in something uncomfortable. By keeping this outfit clean and ready to grab, you’ll always be ready for a comfortable adventure.

Tech Tackle Box

You only have to forget a phone charger or laptop charger once to realize what a stressful (and potentially expensive) mistake it is. To combat that possibility, and remove the stress of wondering, I built a “grab and go” tech bag that’s always ready for take off.

Find a small zipper pouch and fill it with a dedicated second copy of charging devices for your laptop, phone, e-reader and anything else you typically need to keep charged while away from home. My kit also includes an international power adapter, a back-up USB drive, a set of ear buds, and a dongle for connecting my computer to a projector.

No more collecting cords from different rooms of the home, only to have to unravel and unpack them when you return. Now, before I leave home, I simply drop my ready-to-go tech kit into my suitcase, and I know I’ll be charged and connected for the duration of my trip.

Security Set-Up

Though I highly recommend getting TSA Pre-Check (paired with Global Entry for international travelers), not every airport will offer these express lane services, so the more prepared you are, the faster your check-in will go.

Your travel ensemble should already include comfortable layers and shoes that can easily be removed, but opt for a security-friendly carryon bag that features outside-facing zipper pouches. This will allow you to remove your laptop and plastic bag with regulation travel-size liquids to be quickly placed in bins for screening.

Bonus points: Find a bag with a small zipper pouch out the outside, and keep it empty when you pack. This way, you can always add your phone, watch, boarding pass and other small pocket items while waiting in line, saving you the time and the hassle of wrestling multiple screening bins.

Old-School Info Pack

There are so many great apps and tools for booking and organizing travel, but the first time your device battery dies, you’ll be in some trouble. Keeping the travelers version of an “emergency contact card” on paper can be a life saver.

Always keep a sheet of paper or note card with emergency contact information for family, the office, your bank and any other key people in the bag you carry with you. Write down any medications you take, and any important ID numbers, such as your frequent flyer numbers, Known Traveler Number and hotel rewards accounts.

For each trip, print out a paper itinerary with your schedule, including flight information and the names, phone numbers and addresses of any important locations on your journey. If you’re traveling to a country where you won’t speak the dominant language, put each address on a note-card you can hand to a cab driver.

By dedicating the time to find the perfect travel bag just once, and then filling it with the tech tools and paper information you need, you’ll be able to toss on your travel-day ensemble and head to the airport stress free for future trips.

Now the only thing you’ll have to worry about is whether there’s a fresh slate of movies on the in-flight entertainment since you last landed…


Tesla to recall 53,000 cars over parking brake issue

Tesla Inc (TSLA.O) said on Thursday it would recall 53,000 of its Model S and Model X cars globally to fix a parking brake issue.

Shares of the U.S. luxury electric car maker were down nearly 1 percent at $302.77 in afternoon trading, following its biggest ever recall. (

Tesla’s total production for 2016 was 83,922 vehicles and included both Model S and Model X.

“The electric parking brakes installed on Model S and Model X vehicles built between February and October 2016 may contain a small gear that could have been manufactured improperly by our third-party supplier,” Tesla said in a statement on its website.

The car maker said there had been no accidents or injuries due to the issue.

Tesla said less than 5 percent of the vehicles being recalled may be affected and it would take less than 45 minutes to replace the brakes.

The company also said it would send an official recall notice to its customers.

Tesla, led by entrepreneur Elon Musk, had said last year it would recall 2,700 Model X sport utility vehicles in the United States due to a faulty locking hinge in third-row seats.

The company said on Thursday it was working with Italian supplier Freni Brembo SpA (BRBI.MI) to get the replacement parts.

FILE PHOTO: A Tesla logo adorns a 'Model S' car in the dealership in Berlin

Boating safety: All hands on deck

Each time you set out on the lakes and waterways with your boat, take time to review some basic safety tips.

First, make sure everyone who drives your boat knows the basic rules about right of way, speed limits, ski restrictions and equipment condition.

Improve operating skills by completing a course. Contact the department of natural resources in your state to find boating classes, or contact the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary or Power Squadron. For information about vessel safety and other boating resources, visit the Coast Guard’s Boating Safety Resource Center

Keep in mind:

  • Half of all personal watercraft accidents involve operators with less than 20 hours of experience. Thirty-five percent involve riders under age 21.
  • Follow all U.S. Coast Guard regulations for life jackets and safety equipment.
  • Keep enough air pressure in trailer tires. Low pressure at high speeds causes accidents.
  • Be sure your drain plugs are installed. Many boaters have launched the craft from a trailer with the drains open.
  • Periodically recheck the motor bracket clamps for firmness. A safety chain secured to the boat can keep the motor from falling entirely into the water.
  • Open the hatch or operate the blower before starting an inboard engine. Gasoline fumes are dangerous.
  • Guard against theft; don’t leave your boat, motor or equipment unattended. Take equipment not permanently attached or locked away with you when leaving the boat.
  • Keep firefighting and lifesaving equipment in good condition. This equipment should be readily available. The first few seconds are the most important.
  • Use an electric engraver to label your equipment.
  • Before leaving your boat, be certain stoves, lights or lanterns and switches are turned off and cigarettes extinguished. And remember—no smoking while fueling.
  • Lock your boat onto its trailer and secure the trailer to a fixed object when it is not attached to a vehicle.
  • Tow skiers in open areas away from congested areas, narrow or winding channels or near docks, buoys or floats.
  • Use a wide angle rearview mirror and a second person to act as a lookout when towing a skier.
  • Stop the motor before taking a skier on board.

And before you set out, check with your us, to make sure you have the property and liability insurance protection you need.


Top 10 Safety Rules For Kids In The Kitchen

Whether they’re helping you cook or simply watching, kids must be familiar with basic safety rules in the kitchen.

10 Safety Rules

1. Check that the oven and other cooking appliances are turned off before you leave the kitchen.

2. Keep electrical appliances away from water to avoid shocks. Stay away from electrical sockets, especially if your hands are wet.

3. If you burn yourself, tell an adult immediately and hold the burned area under cool running water.

4. Don’t put knives or other sharp objects into a sink full of water. Someone could reach in and get hurt.

5. Watch out for sharp knives. Let an adult cut or slice foods or help you do it.

6. Never put water on a cooking fire — it could make the fire bigger. Ask an adult for help! Put out a fire with a fire extinguisher. If the fire is small, it can be put out with baking soda or smothered with a lid. Leave the house and call 911 if the fire has leaping flames.

7. Don’t put cooked food on an unwashed plate or cutting board that held raw food. Always use a clean plate.

8. Never add water to a pan that has hot oil in it. It could make the oil splatter and burn someone.

9. Always turn pot handles in toward the back of the range top. This way no one can bump into them and knock the pot over.

10.  Keep paper towels, dish towels and pot holders away from the range top so they don’t catch on fire.


Navigate getting your passport – then the world

Foreign lands might be calling your name, but you won’t get there without a passport. The high-tech blue book issued by the Bureau of Consular Affairs gets you in and out of 147 countries around the world. While it does take a little bit of planning and waiting, it isn’t hard to get one if you know the process. If you are at least 16 years old and first-time applicant for your passport, here’s how to get started.

Step 1 – Find Your Proof of Citizenship

The Bureau of Consular Affairs accepts three primary documents to prove your citizenship. If you were born in the United States, you need your birth certificate. If you are a U.S. citizen born abroad, you need your Consular Report of Birth Abroad. If you are a naturalized citizen, you need your Certificate of Naturalization.

You must have an original of the document that fits your situation.

In addition to the original, you will also need a photocopy of your proof of citizenship. Photocopies must be:

  • Legible
  • On white 8.5 by 11-inch standard paper
  • Black and white
  • Single-sided

If you can’t get any of these documents, don’t worry! You have options to provide documents from the secondary citizenship evidence documents list.

Step 2 –Complete Your DS-11 Form

While only two pages long, take your time filling out the DS-11 form to avoid possible delays. If errors are found, your form will be returned and you’ll have to start over. You can fill the form out online and then print it, print a form off and write on it, or pick up a form from the post office.

Do not sign the form until instructed to do so when you drop off your application.

Step 3 – Get your Passport Photo Taken

Passport photos that do not meet requirements are the No. 1 reason passport applications are held up. Many national drug stores and post offices will take your passport photo and print copies out for a small price. This is the easiest way to make sure your photo is compliant with the photo requirements.

If you want to take your own photo, be sure to meet all of the requirements to prevent a delay. You can also follow @PerfectPassport on Twitter and search their #PicturePerfectPassport series for tips and tricks.

Keep a few additional copies of your photo in case you need one for a visa or other travel documents.

Step 4 – Bring a Valid, Primary Photo ID

In addition to your proof of citizenship, you will need to bring a photo ID with you when dropping off your application. Acceptable forms of ID include:

  • Valid driver’s license
  • Current government ID
  • Current military ID

Just like with your proof of citizenship, you will need a photocopy of the front and back of your photo ID. Be sure the photocopy meets all requirements.

Step 5 – Prepare Your Payment

Fees can be paid only by check or money order. You will need two separate checks or money orders: one payable to U.S. Department of State for the application fee of $110; and one payable to the acceptance facility for the execution fee of $25. The post office or other acceptance facility charges an execution fee for taking your application and submitting it for you.

Ready to Submit!

After you have gathered all of your documentation and filled out your DS-11 form, it is time to submit everything. First-time applicants must submit completed applications and all needed documents to a passport acceptance facility in person. Use the Bureau of Consular Affairs search tool to find your closest acceptance facility.

Processing Time

Routine processing time is six to eight weeks. For an additional $60, you can expedite your application and get your passport in two to three weeks. To get your passport even faster – say, in case of death in the family or other emergency – you  must go to a passport agency and provide additional documentation.

Additional Tips and Resources
  1. Mail your original proof of citizenship with your application. It will be mailed back to you. Secondary citizenship documents will not be returned if you use those.
  2. Check the status of your application online.
  3. Check to see if you need a visa, additional immunizations or additional medical information for the country you are visiting.
  4. Follow rules for minors. If you are applying for a passport for a child younger than 16 years old, see these additional requirements.

Handy chart outlining steps (PDF)


Honoring the Stars and Stripes: Memorial Day Flag Protocol

As we approach Memorial Day this coming weekend, it’s a good time to brush-up on our flag protocol. With thoughts of a fun-in-the-sun three-day weekend ahead, we sometimes forget the roots of Memorial Day.

Many have defended our country’s values, especially our service members. Memorial weekend is a traditional time to showcase the ultimate U.S. symbol — our stars and stripes.

Many of our readers have asked us about displaying their flag. Here are answers to the questions we receive most:

What do we need to know to display our U.S. flag?
How do we know if we’re doing it correctly? Just by asking the question you are honoring the flag. Thank you for setting a leadership example for younger generations. The United States Flag Code stipulates that as the symbol of a living country, the flag is considered in a living thing and should be properly cared for as follows:

  • Raise the flag briskly and lower it ceremoniously.
  • Never allow the flag to touch the ground or floor.
  • Do not fly the flag in bad weather, unless you are 100 percent certain it is an all-weather flag.
  • Fly the flag only from sunrise to sunset. It can only be flown at night if it is properly illuminated.
  • The flag should always be allowed to fall free.
  • The flag may not be used to carry, store, or deliver any items.
  • Never fly the flag upside down except to signal an emergency.

What is the difference between half-mast and half-staff?
Our readers who are sailors (Ahoy there!) already that know the term “half-mast” refers to nautical flagpoles, or masts. “Half-staff” refers to any other flagpole, whether residential or commercial.

Are there any special requirements for flying the U.S. American flag on Memorial Day?
Yes, in addition to the Flag Code protocol there are special requirements for flying the U.S American flag on Memorial Day. On this day, flags are flown at half-staff from dawn until noon. At noon, the flag is raised briskly to full-staff until sunset, when it is lowered completely.

What if my flag cannot be raised or lowered to half-staff because it is mounted to the side of my residence?
If your personal flag cannot be raised and lowered effectively because it is mounted to your home, you have another option. Flag protocol dictates that a black ribbon be tied on top of the flagpole, just under the top ornament, as a substitute.

This Memorial Day, remember to respect our history, raise your flag, honor all who have served and use our tips to enjoy your three-day weekend.2016-05-25-1464211838-577821-flagprotocol-thumb

Licensed, bonded, insured: What it means to you

You have decided to build or remodel your home or business. This is a big step, both financially and emotionally. Choosing the right contractor to complete this project is also a big decision.

Hiring the wrong contractor can lead to cost overruns, delays, substandard work and sometimes even litigation over disputes regarding the timing, quality or cost of the project. While it’s tempting to choose a contractor based solely on an online portfolio of completed work or customer testimonials, don’t overlook the importance of making sure your contractor is properly licensed to perform the project as well as adequately bonded and insured.


Certain types of contractors may be required to hold a state or local license demonstrating that they meet minimum training or experience requirements. These types of contractors generally include electrical, HVAC, and plumbing and refrigeration contractors, but this may vary by state.

General contractors taking on jobs involving licensed trades are often licensed themselves. Don’t be afraid to ask a contractor for their license number.

You can use a contractor’s license number to check with the state or municipality about any complaints filed against that contractor. Some states provide a website to check licensing for some trades. You also can check with your local Better Business Bureau for its rating of a particular contractor. Steer clear of contractors who lack licensing required in your state or locality.

Hiring a licensed contractor does not guarantee all will go smoothly with your project. Even licensed contractors can run into problems, therefore it is important to check that your contractor is bonded and insured.


In order to become licensed, many jurisdictions require a contractor to post a “license bond.”  If a contractor is licensed in a particular jurisdiction, that generally means that it has posted a license bond with that jurisdiction to ensure that it will comply with all applicable building codes and regulations.

Another type of bond you may want to inquire about is a “performance bond.” A contractor with a performance bond has secured financial backing from a bonding company or insurer that will provide funds to pay the consumer if the contractor doesn’t perform as required. For example, if the contractor goes bankrupt, dies or just walks away mid-project, a performance bond may provide funds to complete the project. This is important if you need to hire another contractor to finish the work. Performance bonds are more likely to be used with commercial projects or extremely large residential projects. Homeowners should be aware that the contractor’s cost of obtaining a performance bond will likely be added to the cost of the project.


Different from bonds, insurance protects you from liability claims you or third parties may have against the contractor. Make sure any contractor you hire carries both commercial general liability and workers’ compensation insurance. Ask for the contractor’s certificates of both their liability and workers’ compensation insurance if they are not supplied to you along with the bid. A certificate of insurance is a summary provided by the contractor’s insurance company showing the policy numbers and listing the coverages that are in place and the time period covered.

Asking questions before you hire a contractor can protect you from the financial consequences of a poorly run project. It’s also a good idea to consult with your attorney before signing contracts and to ask your local independent insurance agent to review your insurance coverage and the certificates provided by the contractor to make sure you are adequately protected.


Stay safe in and around the pool

A refreshing pool on a hot day can be so inviting. Children of all ages enjoy splashing in the cool waters in private home-based pools, swim clubs, health clubs, country clubs and public pools.

With this fun comes great responsibility. To make sure everyone leaves the pool happy and healthy, pool owners and operators should take steps to prevent injury and drowning.

Television and movies often show drowning as a dramatic event with victims thrashing and calling for help or lifeguards springing into action for the save.

While these instances can occur, drownings often are silent and difficult to see. They can occur in shallow water or even after a person has left the pool.

Water clarity is an important component of proper life safety in the pool. A lifeguard, parent or counselor cannot see someone in need of help as easily if the water is cloudy and murky. Having lots of people in the pool also can affect water clarity, emphasizing the need for proper chemical balance and additional lifesaving staff. Lifeguards must stay alert, taking breaks in rotation while following protocols at all times.

Some signs to look for to identify a potential drowning victim in the water may include:

  • Head low in water with mouth at water level
  • Head tilted back with mouth open
  • Glassy or empty eyes
  • Failure to kick or move legs while in a vertical position in the water
  • Trying to swim with no headway

Remember, too, that drowning doesn’t always happen in the deep end. Shallow water blackout results when an individual holds his or her breath for too long. Younger swimmers can drown in much shallower water. A person can drown in as little as 2-3 inches of water in less than 30 seconds.

With proper supervision and awareness, pool owners and operators can prevent a tragedy from occurring and help everyone to enjoy their time at the pool!


Everybody in the pool! Safely

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), an average of 390 drowning deaths occur annually among children age 15 and younger, and emergency rooms treat 5,200 pool and spa submersion injuries involving children in that age group.  Don’t let your family become a statistic; follow all safety precautions in and around the pool.

Pool Safety at Your Home

Enclose the pool –

  • use a fence 4 feet high or higher as required by local regulations
  • install self-closing and self-latching gates
  • position latches out of the reach of young children
  • keep all doors and windows leading to the pool area secure
  • place tables and chairs away from the pool fence
  • remove steps to above-ground pools when not in use

Keep a phone with emergency numbers listed near the pool, or program the numbers directly into the phone. Do not leave children unattended when you answer the telephone.

Practice “touch supervision” with children under 5 years old. Stay within an arm’s length of the child at all times. CPSC statistics show that 54 percent of pool-related fatalities in children under 5 years old from 2007-2009 (the most recent years analyzed) were the result of a lapse in adult supervision.

Do not swim during rain storms, thunder or lightning. Keep rescue equipment, such as a shepherd’s hook or life preserver, close at hand. Learn CPR.

Public Pool Safety

If you manage or operate a pool for the public or for a club or organization, safety is paramount.

  • Install slip-resistant surfaces around the pool.
  • Include minimum and maximum depth markings on both sides and ends of the pool.
  • Install a telephone with names and numbers of emergency response personnel.
  • Post rules and regulations, including No Diving signs where necessary.
  • Install drain covers that conform with entrapment protection standards.
  • Check and log bacteria/chlorine levels daily.
  • Secure pool chemicals away from the public.
  • Employ certified lifeguards. For pools over 1,800 square feet, provide an elevated lifeguard chair for every 3,000 square feet of pool surface.
  • Develop rules to handle inclement weather.

Managers of swimming pools, wading pools or spas for the public or for club use should be aware of the 2010 Standards for Accessible Design under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The regulations, available here, were revised in 2012.

For more information to keep your family safe while having fun in the pool, visit CPSC’s Pool Safely website.

Contact Us to make sure your insurance policy includes coverages to protect you as a pool owner.