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The “Lived” Travel Experience

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International travel realities

International travel realities

International travel is a fantastic experience, but it requires careful planning and preparation. It’s been alarming hearing about foreigners, particularly those of color, who have not been given the same opportunity to get out of Ukraine since the start of the Russian invasion. There are many rights travelers cannot assume when they travel internationally. Here are a few realities international travelers should bear in mind.

More than a travel visa.
Many travelers to foreign destinations need to know more than whether a travel visa is required. So many travelers make foreign destinations seem like a dream, but for many travelers with a particular lifestyle, some countries can be a nightmare. This reality is particularly true for many travelers of the LGBT+ community. But not only do travelers of certain lifestyles need to be vigilant, having a particular passport can make some travelers more vulnerable than others.

Travelers are guests.
Not many travelers read the fine print of the entry documents they receive. However, if travelers chose to read the fine print, they would realize that they are only in the country as a guest and have some limitations to their rights. Understanding what safety precautions and laws they need to consider when entering a foreign country should be necessary to all travelers. Breaking laws in another country can be a long and challenging process with lifelong repercussions.

Register with your embassy.
Even though you may not plan on being in a country for an extended time, registering with the embassy is a smart thing to do when traveling internationally. Registration allows you to have access to assistance from your country of citizenship in the case of an emergency. Registering is a free and voluntary service and may seem inconsequential to many travelers, but priceless in the case of an emergency abroad. Please consider the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) if you plan to travel internationally. If you have an accident, illness, or become a victim of crime, your STEP enrollment can be an asset.

Be aware of travel scams.
Certain destinations are known for specific travel scams, so international travelers should be aware of any possible scams before arriving at their destination. Some travelers become potential victims from the time they enter the country. Victimization can happen in taxis when drivers drive around to increase the fare, to human traffickers who are on the lookout for single travelers to exploit. It’s essential to be aware and vigilant when in any foreign destination.

Having traveled internationally as a career has given me a more careful and objective view of foreign travel. While I encourage travel, I also am a strong proponent of travel care and preparation. Have you ever found yourself in a precarious situation when traveling? I’d like to know.

Unaccompanied minor travelers.

Unaccompanied minor travelers.

As we approach the springtime, it’s a good idea to discuss young adults traveling and unaccompanied travelers.  Often these travelers are minors, but, in some cases, they can be disabled adults as well.  As a single mom, I often used this service to have my kids visit their biological father or other relatives.  I have never had an issue with the service, and I think it’s an excellent option for young travelers to get to a destination without the added expense of purchasing another ticket to accompany them on their trip.  However, there are a few facts people should know about unaccompanied travelers.

Unaccompanied travel policies.

There is no one policy for unaccompanied travel.  If you consider this service, please check with the airline as unaccompanied policies differ depending on children flying alone or under the designation of an unaccompanied minor.  Generally, children over age five and up to age 15 can travel as unaccompanied minors for a fee.  In some cases, minors over the age of 16 can travel as young adults without a cost.  Again, each situation and airline have their own policies, so please check with the airline.  Please note that policies will differ if the unaccompanied minor travels on more than one airline.

Unaccompanied service.

When paying for unaccompanied service, the airlines’ general expectation is to provide the minor traveler with additional supervision.  This service will include getting the minor traveler on or off the airplane, supervision while on the aircraft, escort to any connections, and any assistance if there is a delay or any other unplanned trip interruptions.  At the start of the trip, an adult will fill out unaccompanied minor paperwork for the traveler.  In some cases, the adult will then transfer the care of the minor to the airline agent or be given a pass to accompany the minor to the departure gate.  On arrival, the designated adult will go through the same process, and they will meet the minor at the arrival gate, or the minor will be delivered to the designated adult at baggage claim.

Unaccompanied preparation.

Unaccompanied service is just that, unaccompanied.  If the traveler is not prepared to travel independently, the adult should carefully consider this option.  Even though there is inflight supervision, the unaccompanied traveler is not always supervised while in flight.  There can be flight disruptions due to mechanical delays, weather, or even aircraft changes on any given day.  I have had cases where the child has cried the entire flight for varying reasons.  In other cases, there is no guarantee that the child will be seated close to a flight attendant or be in view of the flight attendant the entire flight.  At the end of the day, it is up to the adult to consider whether the traveler is capable mentally and emotionally of traveling on their own.

Unaccompanied tips.

With complete preparation, the unaccompanied process can still go awry.  However, a few unaccompanied traveler tips will help ensure the process goes smoothly.  Book nonstop flights to make the journey as simple as possible.  Provide the unaccompanied traveler with a way of contact in the event of an emergency, enable tracking service on that device, and pack a travel charger for the device.  Make sure your traveler has a way to pay for their food or incidental expenses.  Finally, enable flight alerts or track the flight through the airline or an App to get up-to-date flight information.

Every situation is different so think long and carefully about having your minor child or disabled adult travel unaccompanied.  Have you or would you consider unaccompanied service.  I’d like to know, so comment below.

 

 

Why I have a maid in Singapore?

Why I have a maid in Singapore?

Living in Singapore has allowed me the opportunity to employ a helper, more commonly known as a maid in the US.  While this is beyond the imagination for most Americans, both black and white, having a maid in Singapore is a common occurrence.  Many Singaporeans have a maid/helper to help them cook, clean, and look after their pets, elderly, or young children.  In Singapore, employing a maid is not only for the wealthy.  Here are a few facts about having a maid in Singapore.

Foreign Domestic Worker.

Maids in Singapore fall under the Foreign Domestic Workers (FDW) category.  There are more than 200,000 FDW’s in Singapore, and possibly 1 out of every household employs an FDW.  Maids or helpers as they are known in Singapore are from nearby Southeast Asia countries like the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Bangladesh, and Thailand.  These maids work as helpers in Singapore to support and/or educate their families back home and save money to buy land or a business when they return home.

Requirements to employ a maid.

Although costs for having a maid are not as prohibitive as in other places, not everyone can employ a maid.  An employer must meet specific eligibility requirements.  First, they must be over 21 and have the mental capacity to supervise and care for their helper.  In addition, first-time employers must attend a mandatory employer orientation program.  Employers are assessed on their mental and financial ability and other requirements to employ, maintain, and upkeep the maid in acceptable accommodations.

Costs of maid/helper.

The average minimum cost for having a maid in Singapore is $550.00 per month.  Yes, I said that correctly; that is the cost per month.  Of course, monthly salaries are commensurate with the duties required and/or the number of people in the household.  There are also agency fees, health checkup fees, and a security bond to consider.  In addition, there is a monthly levy fee anywhere from $60 to $300.  Employers also must provide health insurance and a yearly round trip ticket for the maid/helper.

Why a maid?

When you consider the costs of childcare, cleaning, eating out, and or senior daycare or a live-in nurse, employing a maid simply makes sense.  Some households have a maid for cleaning and another for the child or elderly care.  The maid/helper is often responsible for running the home, shopping, and cooking to meet dietary restrictions.  In some cases, the Singapore government may help defray the costs of employing a maid/helper.

Personally, I have a helper in Singapore because I don’t cook or clean.  Although that might seem like a vain statement, it is my lived experience.  Having maids in Singapore allowed me to live in Singapore and still work in the USA for many years.  I had help raising my kids, and I could go to work knowing that someone was taking care of my children and home.  Now, as an empty nester, I simply enjoy having a maid who takes care of my dog, grocery shopping, cleaning, and cooking.  In addition, I can travel anytime I want because someone is always there to take care of my home.  If you had the opportunity, would you hire a maid?  Let me know in the comment section below.

 

Five interesting facts about Singapore

Five interesting facts about Singapore

Singapore is a great place to live as an ex-pat. It has an excellent infrastructure, schools, and healthcare system. It is also one of the cleanest cities I have traveled to and one of the most popular ex-pat destinations. I Have lived in Singapore for more than ten years now, and although I’m used to the way of life here, there are a few things I think travelers to Singapore will find interesting.

Drunk in public

In Singapore, you need to worry about drunk driving as well as being drunk in public. The legal drinking age in Singapore is 18. Selling alcohol to anyone under 18 is a punishable offense, but there is no penalty for those under 18 if caught drinking. There are plenty of bars and places to drink in Singapore but being drunk in public is an offense. Anyone who appears in public drunk or annoys another person is guilty of a crime. The punishment can be up to a maximum sentence of six months in prison or a fine of up to $1000.00 for a first-time offender.

Abusing a public servant.

It is not uncommon to see peoples’ frustrations boiling over at government officials in the US. However, doing so in Singapore is against the law. Anyone who speaks or behaves indecently to a public official is breaking the law. Furthermore, any act that prevents a public servant from carrying out their duties is also an offense. Punishment can be up to 12 months in prison and/or a fine of up to $5000.00.

Chewing gum in Singapore.

Most people think it is illegal to chew gum in Singapore, but that is not a fact. The chewing gum ban is on importing and selling chewing gum in Singapore. Currently, the law is less strict as it allows for selling gum for health-related purposes such as nicotine gum. However, you can only buy from pharmacies. Selling gum in Singapore can get you a fine of up to $100,000.00 or up to two years in jail.

Littering in Singapore.

Singapore is one of the cleanest cities, and it is because littering in Singapore is an offense. Anyone caught throwing anything on the ground, even a cigarette butt, is considered littering. The maximum fine for a littering violation is $2000.00 for the first offense, $4000.00 for the second, and up to $10,000. for the third offense. In addition, there can be a penalty of community service.

Caning in Singapore.

Caning in Singapore is indeed a fact. There are three types of caning, judicial, caning in schools, and parental punishment. Judicially an offender can be caned for several offenses but is compulsory for acts such as robbery, drug trafficking, and vandalism. Caning is only applicable to males under 50 and deemed medically fit for the punishment. Women and those sentenced to death are exempt from caning. Interestingly, the court will notify the offender of their caning sentence but no advance notice of its execution. There is a limit of 24 strokes for an adult and ten strokes for a minor.

I hope you found this information fascinating and that you be careful of local laws wherever you may travel. Singapore is a beautiful country, but it is best not to disregard any laws while visiting or working in Singapore. If found guilty, you may have to serve punishment before being deported. In addition, you will have a criminal record and may not be allowed to visit or work in Singapore in the future.

Must have travel Apps.

Must have travel Apps.

Almost every person has a smartphone and a mobile App they use every day.  Many travelers use their phones no matter the destination.  But now, more than ever, travelers take advantage of mobile Apps to help them through the travel process.  Whether planning a trip or getting help during a trip, some Apps can help you save time and money and make the travel journey much less stressful.  Here are three Apps I think every traveler should have.

Airline Apps.

Airline Apps have significantly improved over the past few years.  While they are not often used to purchase tickets, they are most assuredly used to enhance the travel experience.  Airline Apps allow you to see your travel itinerary and essential information such as booking codes and ticket numbers.  This information is often overlooked but can be crucial when discussing your travel with ticketing agents.  The airline app will also allow you to check in for your flight, change seats or select meal preferences.  In addition, the App will have up-to-date travel information, sometimes even before it displays on airport information screens.  Travelers can also opt-in for travel alerts to notify them of flight delays, gate changes, or flight cancellations.  Some airline Apps even allow you to watch airline entertainment from your mobile device.  These are just a few of the advantages of having the airline App when traveling.  So, if you plan to travel, check if the airline you plan to travel on has an App and download it before you go.

Flight booking Apps.

Plenty of flight booking Apps are available that all claim to help you find the best trip at the best price.  The best perk of a flight booking App is that it compares many flight options all in one place.  The best flight booking App depends on the travelers’ preferences and priorities.  Some Apps will help you with the best time to book and purchase a ticket.  Some are better if you want a guaranteed refund in the event of delay or cancellation.  Most importantly, travelers can set alerts for price drops and can take advantage of flight bargains when available.  Like airline Apps, flight booking Apps also keep all your flight information in one location, even previous booking information.  In addition, many flight booking Apps will also provide options for hotel or rental car information and suggest tourist trips or destination information.  Whether you have precise flight booking needs or flexibility with your travel dates or destination, a flight booking App is a great place to start.

Hotel Apps.

Hotel Apps allow travelers to create a more customized experience and a convenient way to discuss their hotel needs with the hotel.  Many hotel Apps now have a mobile check-in and check-out process and mobile key cards for hotel room access.  With some hotel Apps, hotel guests no longer have to interact with front desk personnel or stand in line for check-in or request a room upgrade.  The hotel App may also link other hotel services such as ordering room service, booking dining reservations, making spa appointments, or requesting your car from the valet.  Like the airline and flight booking Apps, hotel Apps allow guests to have all their booking information in one location.  If you plan a hotel stay, see if your hotel has an App, and take advantage of the many benefits it may provide.

These are just a few of the available travel Apps and I did not name any specifically because I think preference is personal.  If you want a more customized travel experience, travel Apps may help you realize a better service experience.  Do you use any travel apps?  Comment below and let me know.

Taking sleeping pills on an airplane.

Long-distance flying can be uncomfortable and a chore.  Some travelers are blessed to sleep at will, while it can be a chore for others.  As a former flight attendant, I have witnessed many scenarios of passengers taking sleeping pills when flying.  Some travelers claim that it is the only way to sleep, while others believe it will alleviate anxiety.  Some want to be well-rested when they land, while others wish travel time would pass quickly.  Whatever the reason, taking pills to induce sleep while traveling can have pitfalls.  Here are a few health and safety risks to consider.

Sleeping aids.

Medications and supplements can have different effects in the air than on the ground, so be careful of any you take while flying.  If you must take a sleeping aid, I highly suggest a natural sleeping supplement like melatonin, which is available over the counter.  Another option is to take an antihistamine such as Advil or Tylenol PM.  These options will make you drowsy and help you to fall asleep with minimal side effects.  I firmly advise never to take any sleep supplements on the airplane without the experience of taking them at home.

Prescription pills.

Although many travelers take sleeping pills, they are strong reasons not to.  Pharmaceutical sleeping pills help you to fall asleep faster.  In my experience, I have seen passengers take sleeping pills as soon as they board the airplane.  However, if the flight is delayed or passengers need to deplane, it’s not easy to wake a medicated person.  In addition, when under medication, some people are unaware of their surroundings and behavior.

Adverse reactions.

Whether medication or a supplement, taking pills onboard an airplane can cause an adverse reaction.  If a passenger has an adverse reaction, the flight may be diverted for a medical emergency.  If the flight crew requests paramedics to meet the flight, the passenger is responsible for the medical bills associated with the incident.  In addition, if the passenger falls ill due to taking a medication or supplement that has not been prescribed, it will invalidate their insurance.

An airplane is a public space.

Simply put, an airplane is a public space.  Many passengers travel alone and may encounter people they have never met or know.  There have been incidences where other passengers have assaulted passengers while under the influence.  Once this occurs mid-air, very little can be done until the plane lands.  Often there are no witnesses to the act, and it’s one passenger’s word against another.  Other than changing a person’s seat or notifying authorities upon landing, there is not much a flight crew can do in this situation.

Choosing a sleep aid is a personal choice, but only with careful thought and consideration.  As a former flight attendant, I would advise all passengers to always be conscious and able in the event of an emergency.  As a passenger, I prefer to go without sleep before a long-haul flight to help me fall asleep faster.  What is your choice?  I’d like to know.