Theft on an airplane.

Theft on an airplane.

Most travelers never stop to think of having their items stolen on board an airplane. I recently took a women’s safety awareness class.  The one thing that stood out to me is that most crimes are crimes of opportunity.  Although theft on the airplane is rare, it does occur.  In most cases, the person never realizes that they were victims until after the flight.  Unfortunately, flight crews can do very little if it happens in flight unless the person is caught red-handed.  Here are a few ideas to keep in mind when traveling to prevent your items from being stolen on the airplane.

Place luggage across from your seat

Many travelers like to place their carry-on luggage directly above their seats.  When you are seated on an aisle seat, you can usually see what happens when someone goes into the overhead bin.  However, when you are sitting in a middle or window seat, you cannot see your luggage if it is directly overhead.  Your items can be stolen right before you without you knowing it has happened.  When you place your luggage across from your seat, you will always see it and anyone that handles it.

Lock your carry-on

Travelers assume that they only must secure their checked luggage, and I would advise that you lock and protect your carry-on luggage as well.  Remember that overhead bin space is shared space, and there is no guarantee that you will be able to stow your carry-on items at or near your seat.  On most crowded flights, especially during holidays, overhead bin space gets full very quickly.

Make your bag easily identifiable

Many bags look alike, and some dishonest travelers take advantage of that fact.  If caught, their excuse is that they thought it was their bag.  Place something on your bag that makes it easily identifiable, like a brightly colored ribbon, sticker, or bag tag.  Anything that differentiates your luggage will discredit the excuse of unintentional handling of your carry-on luggage.

Stow your valuables well

Many people like to have their wallets or purses at hand.  Unfortunately, this can be a perfect crime of opportunity for a fellow traveler.  Once you are onboard an airplane, there is no need to have your purse or wallet out.  Most airlines now are cashless, so having a single credit card accessible is enough for most travelers.

Use common sense

If you go to the restroom, take your purse or wallet.  Men tend to remove their wallets or phones from their back pockets and place them in the seatback pocket, and women will leave their purses unattended to go to the restroom.  In both these cases, travelers leave the opportunity open to become victims of theft.  The person traveling next to you is usually a stranger.  You may never see them again in life, and it is not likely to get to know them well while onboard.  Even though your seatmate or fellow travelers can be friendly, always remember that they are strangers.

I hope you have never experienced any theft while onboard an airplane.  I have seen it happen, and I know it can happen.  Be careful and use your common sense. Have you ever given theft on the airplane a thought? As always, your comments are welcome.

Is a group tour right for you?

Is a group tour right for you?

Group tour or not?

Depending on your travel personality, tour travel can be a pleasure or a pain.  Enjoyable travel takes a lot of money, planning, and for things to fall in place.  Planning a trip with different sightseeing on the agenda takes a bit of experience.  An organized tour will provide all the organization and prep work for you.  Considering the advantages and disadvantages, is a group tour right for you?  Here are a few thoughts to consider.

Tour companies take care of all the organization and prep work for visiting landmarks.  They usually include the most popular destinations so that your itinerary will offer the best of your destination goals.  Tour operators and guides also provide a bit of insider knowledge since they are from the area. They often share historical information not widely known that can enhance the experience.

Organized tours have designated times and schedules.  This scheduling can allow you to relax and enjoy your travel without having to create your plans.  However, it prevents you from vacationing on your terms and timing. To many, this can be a significant disadvantage. The specific tour guidelines and lack of control can be a turnoff for many travelers.  Being stuck on a tour bus with dozens of people or a tour with a standard of service not expected can be a turnoff.

Knowing the maximum group size, age specifics, or style of tour is also essential.  Smaller group tours give the advantage of a more personalized and unique experience.  Age specifics allow you to be more aware of the group capacity.  A young adult going on a tour for retirees is a prime example of a mismatch.  Alternatively, going on an adventurous tour when you find relaxing trips more enjoyable can be a disaster.

One advantage of an organized tour is the fact that tours give an aspect of safety.  Tour companies are usually risk-averse.  They often choose destinations and activities that cater to the age and preferences of the tour group.  If travelers are not conscious of the age and demographics of the tour group, they can find themselves in undesirable circumstances.

Finally, pricing can be an advantage or a disadvantage.  Tour packages can include meals, transportation, hotels, flights, entry fees, or sightseeing.  Often travelers assume that their tour packages include items that are not included or available for an additional cost.  Although tour pricing can be attractive, individual research and planning could also be more advantageous. If considering a tour, do your research to determine if a tour is right for you.  Consider the advantages and disadvantages before deciding.  Do you prefer tours or trip planning on your own? I’d like to know.

Traveling with the USD

Traveling with the USD

As a frequent traveler, I am aware of the value of the US dollar. It is the most recognized currency in many foreign destinations. The US dollar is also the closest thing to an international currency because it is so widely accepted. However, please know that individual international businesses can decide whether to take the money. Here are a few tips on traveling with the US dollar.

In many countries, the value of the US dollar is high. Many local vendors prefer payment in USD rather than the local currency. However, when using larger bills, you are often given back change from your purchase in the local currency. If you don’t plan a lengthy stay, the money is usually not worth it back at home. It can also be difficult to get a decent exchange rate.

It is good to note that some foreign countries will not accept currency older than a specific date. On my recent travel to Tanzania, a particular vendor would not take US currency older than 2009. I learned that there are no restrictions on banks to accept or reject the USD with further research. In some cases, if older notes are accepted, you may be given a lower exchange rate.

Similarly, many may not take torn or mutilated currency at some foreign locations. There was much concern while shopping in the local Maasai village because a bill had a small corner ripped. While this is a common occurrence in the US, note that foreigners are suspicious of the currency’s being valid when presented for payment elsewhere or at their banks.

Try to travel with currency in small denominations. Small notes are great for tipping, so before you travel, try getting your small bills from the bank as they are less likely to give out damaged or dated currency. With currency from the bank, you are more likely to have your USD accepted wherever you travel.

Has your US currency ever been denied when traveling abroad? Were you even aware of the possibility of your USD not being accepted when traveling? I’d like to know.

True but little known facts about Tanzania.

True but little known facts about Tanzania.

I am a strong proponent of research.  I believe it’s essential to know about the culture and customs of the destinations you travel to.  It’s a well-known fact that Tanzania is home to Kilimanjaro, the tallest mountain in Africa.  However, several other points are important to know.  In my blog, I try to give more than just picturesque information. Here are some true but little-known facts I found out about Tanzania.

Since 2019, mainland Tanzania has been enforcing a ban on plastic bags. There are a range of fines imposed on travelers if found improperly disposing of plastic bags.  Visitors should avoid carrying plastic bags in their suitcase or carry-on before arriving in Tanzania. Ziploc bags for toiletry are still allowed.  There is a special desk at all entry points into Tanzania to dispose of plastic bags visitors may unknowingly bring into the country.

It is illegal to wear camouflage in Tanzania.    Green camouflage clothing is reserved exclusively for Tanzania’s People’s Defense Force. While you may see some people may be wearing some colored camouflage outfits. Know that only official military personnel is permitted to dress in the official green camouflage uniforms. Travelers can be stopped by police, forced to change clothing, and fined.  It’s simply not worth the hassle.

Parts of the Tanzanian population are Muslim. Some places can be conservative, and men and women usually cover their knees in public. Traditionally women wear only skirts. However, tourists and foreigners often wear pants but should try not for them to be form-fitting. To be safe, avoid shorts and skirts above the knees. Also, avoid wearing tops that bare your shoulders or cleavage. A headdress may also be appropriate. And as always, please try to respect the culture.

Knowledge about Tanzanian culture is essential.  Visitors should always use their right hand for greetings as the left hand is associated with toilet activities.  Greeting only one person in a room is considered impolite, so acknowledge everyone in the room.  Males and females may eat in separate rooms even when related. Also, saying no to food being offered to you or smelling food is considered impolite.

Age is highly respected in Tanzania. Greeting an older person is sometimes accompanied by a bow.  Much respect is given to older tourists.  It’s common to see bargaining in shops and marketplaces, even to have prices increased for foreigners.  However, age can be advantageous when bargaining in shops and the market.

These are but a few little-known facts about Tanzania.  I encourage all travelers to research their destinations before travel.  Have you ever been surprised by cultural etiquette? I’d like to know.

Know before you go-Covid testing.

Know before you go-Covid testing.

The travel industry has bounced back significantly despite the realities of Covid. One of the many reasons travelers chose to be vaccinated was so that they could travel. However, with all the developments around COVID-19, many destinations now require COVID testing before departure. While checking in for an international flight recently, I witnessed a passenger being denied travel for not having the correct testing documentation for travel. Here are a few ideas on Covid testing you should know before you go.

Covid testing.

There are two types of COVID testing available, diagnostic and antibody tests. Each traveler should do their research on travel testing requirements. In general, there are three types of testing, an antigen or rapid test, a molecular test, also known as an RT-PCR test, and an antibody test. As stated in the name, a rapid test provides results quickly, while a molecular test may take twenty-four to forty-eight hours for results. The antibody test uses blood and can be available the same day or 1-3 days, depending on lab processing. An appointment for testing is often required, along with proof of identity and insurance if applicable.

Travel requirements.

To be sure you meet the travel-specific COVID testing requirements, travelers need to plan accordingly. Each country’s requirement, although similar, may be different. One of the main differences between the antigen/rapid test and the molecular/RT-PCR test is that the antigen/rapid test may not detect early COVID-19 infection. Due to this fact, many countries will not accept the results of an antigen test. In addition, the timing of testing can be a factor. Some destinations require testing at least 72 hours before travel.

Do the research.

Doing your research is essential as the test timing can depend on departure or arrival at the destination. Travelers must present documentation before travel, so please check with the airline or destination to be sure of testing requirements. Many airports do not have testing facilities, and as stated before, a rapid test may not fulfill requirements for proof for travel. Airlines cannot override the specific country testing requirements.

Medical screening.

Additionally, due to COVID, passengers may be subject to medical screening. Some destinations will also require an antigen/rapid test upon arrival at the travelers’ expense. In addition, the USA still requires a negative COVID test before entering the US. There have been reports of travelers having to extend their travels due to a positive COVID test before departure. As always, I advise everyone to wash their hands frequently and wear a mask to protect themselves.

Have you had to be COVID tested for travel? How was it? I’d like to know.

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