Monthly Archives: July 2016

Tips to Keep Your Mobile Devices Secure While Traveling

Cybersecurity is more important now than ever before.  We all know the importance of purchasing travel insurance to protect our valuables and take care of medical expenses, but what our online security? As frequent travelers, keeping our online information safe while traveling is a huge concern for us.

Here’s how to keep your personal, family, and business files and information safe while you’re away from home. No need to worry about hackers breaching your electronics again!

USE A VIRTUAL PRIVATE NETWORK (VPN).

Using a VPN while traveling is our number one tip for keeping your information safe! Bitdefender BOX protects EVERY device connected to your home internet (computers, phones, TV’s, game consoles, home security systems), but it even protects you while you’re away from home. It is the first and only such device of its kind to be announced and available in the market and has been described by The Wall Street Journal as a “breakthrough idea” and by FOX News as “the best way to prevent future digital break-ins.”

Bitdefender BOX encrypts and secures all information coming and going from your personal devices at your home and while you’re on the go so you can safely go online anywhere. Many countries censor what is available online to the public and block certain websites, but a VPN will allow you to access such sites anonymously. Virtual privacy and protection plays an important role in keeping your devices safe, and is absolutely a must-have for travelers. (Note: Bitdefender BOX is available for purchase at $99 for a limited time — a value of $199.)

USE STRONG PASSWORDS.

This should go without saying, but don’t use the same password for all of your accounts. You should have a complicated password not only on your phone, computer, and tablets, but on any sensitive files or information on these devices as well. Rather than writing down usernames and passwords on a piece of paper (which can easily be lost or obtained by pickpockets), create a password-protected computer document organizing all of your sensitive account login information.

AVOID OPEN PUBLIC WIRELESS NETWORKS.

Public wifi spots like coffee shops and hotels may offer authentic wifi with passwords, but hackers will sometimes create a second wifi with nearly the exact same name with open availability – no password required. Don’t take the easy way out! Ask an employee of the wifi provider to verify the exact wifi name and password, or use your own private mobile hotspot on your phone.

Using your private mobile hotspot (a feature available on nearly all smartphones) protected by Bitdefender BOX, you’ll have virtually no connection to any outside sources or networks. This is without a doubt the safest way to surf the web with peace of mind.

URLS BEGINNING WITH ‘HTTPS:’ ARE SAFER THAN STANDARD ‘HTTP:’ WEBSITES.

If you end up needing to make online transactions or purchases while on your travels, only enter credit card information on sites including an ‘s’ (for ‘secure’). If the website allows, use a third party money transfer account for added security.

TURN OFF COOKIES AND AUTOFILL.

Autofill is any hacker’s heaven, with a wealth of personal information at their fingertips. Turn off autofill and cookies on all of your devices before setting off on your trip.

CHECK ON THE LEGALITY OF ENCRYPTION.

Some countries – like Russia, China and the Middle East – prohibit the use of encrypted devices to prevent terrorist activity, so know the rules before embarking on your trip. Because countries like these are especially vulnerable to online threats, it’s crucial that you use your own virtual private network like Bitdefender BOX to keep your electronics and information safe.

GIVEAWAY! WIN A BITDEFENDER BOX!

Enter for a chance to win 1 of 5 Bitdefender BOX devices! See below for complete details:

  • Limit of one (1) Entry per person daily.
  • Each winner will receive one (1) prize package consisting of a Bitdefender BOX device. Approximate Retail Value (“ARV”) of the prize package is $199.
  • All entries must be received by 11:59 p.m. ET on August 18, 2016.
  • Promotion is open to legal residents of the fifty (50) United States and the District of Columbia, 21 years of age or older, where such Promotions are allowed by the laws of this territory. By entering the Promotion, you accept sole responsibility for determining whether your participation is legal in any jurisdiction that applies to you.

Tips to San Francisco in a Weekend

San Francisco — the easiest city to love and the hardest to leave. Its vintage charm is enough to capture the hearts of travelers from all over the world, but this “City by the Bay” has so much more to offer than just cool weather and the Golden Gate! After just one visit, foodies, fashionistas, and culture enthusiasts alike will realize why San Francisco is arguably one of the greatest cities in the U.S.

TRANSPORTATION

UBER EVERYWHERE. Just kidding, that gets expensive.

SF is infamous for its cable cars so definitely ride one if you get the chance! Fare is $7 for a single ride, and stops at popular areas like Fisherman’s Wharf, Market Street, Union Square, Ghiradelli Square, and the Financial District. There are 3 cable cars that each take different routes through the city so make sure you’re getting on the right one – they’re color coded (see the routes and color codes here).

Although traffic can be frustrating, driving may be more practical and convenient so be smart about it. Search online to find a parking garage near your destination ahead of time, or download the app VoicePark to find street or garage parking anywhere in the city; most street parking is limited to 2 hours so this app will allow you to choose a longer time allowance and will find a parking spot accordingly.

Thankfully, parking garage rates are much cheaper on the weekends in comparison to weekday rates so you’re in luck! BART is also popular, and on Saturdays and Sundays you can park your car at the S. San Francisco station for free.

WHERE TO EAT

SF is a melting pot of good food, so here’s the best of a little bit of everything:

Ike’s Place: The most incredible vegan/vegetarian sandwich you’ll ever eat, not to mention the meat sandwiches are loaded with more toppings than you could imagine. Best $10 I’ve ever spent.

Pica Pica: Venezuelan cuisine, featured on Food Network!

Boudin: The classic SF sourdough bakery – opt for the clam chowder or tomato soup bread bowls.

Eats: A cute and cozy breakfast/lunch spot that’s easy on your wallet.

Brenda’s Meat and Three: A true San Francisco spin on homestyle southern food – their fried veggie po’ boy sandwich is to DIE for.

The Grove: Fresh and locally produced seasonal veggies for awesome soups, salads, and sandwiches.

Elite Audio Coffee Bar: Two words: Latte. Art. Go in between 12-4pm on Saturdays and get amazing latte art by the locally-famous Melanie Aquino!

Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market: On Saturday’s from 8am-2pm you can stroll the Farmer’s Market off Embarcadero and stop in one of the many cafés and eateries. Cowgirl Creamery Sidekick is on the top of my list because they load everything with cheese.

WHERE TO STAY

Hostels are always a go-to for young travelers trying to cut back on trip expenditures, but now that Airbnb is becoming more popular (you can even rent out one of the Painted Ladies!) there are plenty of budget-friendly options.

If you want some classic San Francisco charm on a budget, try the San Remo Hotel; it has authentic Victorian décor, a gorgeous view of Coit Tower, and is within walking distance of the Wharf – all for a cool $100.

Coming with friends? The funky Phoenix Hotel is worth a bit of splurge, and has the trendy rock-n-roll themed restaurant with poolside seating. This place has some killer potential for Instagram-worthy shots!

BARS AND CLUBS

Alcohol is top priority, and San Francisco’s got plenty of it. Whether you like low-key lounges or upbeat dance clubs, you’ll have a variety of places to choose from.

Upcider: Get a flight of ciders and try out different variations! Great place to get food as well. Polk St. is known for its bar hopping scene, so make this one of your stops earlier on in the night. Stop by the dive bar Vertigo next door for music and a good selection of beer.

The Alchemist: Lively lounge in SoMa – skip your “usual” drink and order one of their specialty drinks!

Monarch: Bar and lounge upstairs, live music or DJ downstairs.

Temple Nightclub: Sign up for the guest list online for free admission! Ruby Skye is another nightclub with a similar vibe.

Doc’s Lab: Intimate live music venue. Because it’s small, the place fills up quick! Come (1+ hour) early, get a drink upstairs, and then get in line to enter about 10 minutes before the show starts.

Infusion Lounge: Fun place to dance, moderately priced drinks. Sign up for their guest list online and get $10 off your cover charge!

Slate: Cool bar to meet people, grab a drink, and play a game of pool.

WHERE TO SHOP

Union Square is a shopaholic’s paradise, with a 7-story mall and every designer and department store you could think of. For me, though, nothing beats the Haight-Ashbury; the funky boutiques are surprisingly well-priced, and the numerous consignment stores offer up trendy clothes at a fraction of the cost. For those with mixed taste, hit up Polk St. – Nob Hill’s vintage, modern, and pre-owned high end buys are hard to beat, especially for those who are suckers for designer labels!

ATTRACTIONS

Although there are literally hundreds of awesome attractions scattered around the city, I’ve narrowed the list down to my personal favorites:

Golden Gate Bridge: Ahh, the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. For you photography buffs, I’ve found the best views are from Presidio Park, Fort Point, and Battery Spencer. Both ends of the bridge have great hiking spots!

Fisherman’s Wharf: A bit touristy, but a necessity nonetheless.

Ghiradelli Square: The Square itself is beautiful and has great views of the port, but the chocolate and ice cream treats at Ghiradelli are what you really should be paying attention to. Walk down to the park afterwards and enjoy the artists and street vendors!

Ocean Beach: Dog-friendly beach popular with the young crowd, with stunning sunset views. Picnic dinners with a bonfire are a MUST!

Alcatraz: Yes, it’s as creepy and fascinating as it sounds.

Muir Woods: The ‘wildly’ famous redwood park on the northern end of the Golden Gate Bridge. Admission is $10 and parking is EXTREMELY hard to come by, so get there right at 8am when it opens!

SFMOMA: The newly reopened Museum of Modern Art, with gorgeous architecture and the Living Wall – an outdoor exhibit made of nearly 20,000 plants.

Japantown: You’ve seen the Chinatowns of every major city out there, but have you ever come across a Japantown? Check out the indoor shopping malls, Japanese treats, and the Kinokuniya Bookstore for a taste of real Japanese culture.

Golden Gate Park: Larger than NYC’s Central Park, the Golden Gate Park is home to the de Young Museum, California Academy of Sciences, and – my personal favorite – the Japanese Tea Garden.

Twin Peaks: Drive to the top of Twin Peaks above the Castro District to get my favorite view of all of San Francisco! Go at sunset for the best clarity and photos, or at night to get an awesome shot of the city lights. Although people come and go, Twin Peaks is a quiet place to relax for a few minutes away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Don’t forget, there are festivals and events around the city EVERY single weekend so scan Facebook to see what’s going on! Whether it’s the infamous Pride Parade, the crazy Bay to Breakers 12K, or a spontaneous food truck mac n’ cheese competition, you can bet that there’s never a dull moment in SF.

PACKING ESSENTIALS FOR SAN FRANCISCO

Checklist-IconLayers: One thing is for certain, San Francisco weather is unpredictable. Always bring layers and a warm, windproof outer layer, even in the summer. This packable jacket is perfect.

Checklist-IconHat: A trucker hat works great for those windy days — especially at the top of Twin Peaks — and a beanie is a must in the colder months.

Checklist-IconComfortable Shoes: You’ll be doing a ton of walking. I usually bring a pair of Chucks or cute ballet flats with plenty of cushion.

Checklist-IconSunnies: Just in case the sun decides to come out! Plus, you’ll fit right in with a pair of aviators.

Checklist-IconDaypack: You’ll need something to carry all those layers, souveniers, and camera gear. Ladies, if you don’t want to carry around a small backpack, this oversized purse is comfortable and it fits everything I need for a day out in the city.

Things You Should Never Forget Before a Trip Ideas

Over-packing can be heavy and costly, but there’s no doubt that under-packing can sometimes leave us worried we’ve forgotten something. Leave the anxiety at home with our list of five important things to always remember before a trip!

 

CHECK VISA & VACCINATION REQUIREMENTS

Every country has different tourist visa and vaccination requirements, so make sure you abide by the guidelines and meet requirements well in advance. This user-friendly interactive guide is helpful in starting your research to ensure you are well prepared. Health updates regarding country-specific illnesses – like the current Zika virus outbreak – should also be monitored regularly.

GET TRAVEL INSURANCE

Travel insurance can cover the cost of lost or stolen personal items, trip cancellations, and even medical emergencies – this can prove to be beneficial in the event of an unplanned disruption of your trip. Just as you insure your home, car, and even your phone, make sure to insure your trip to avoid costly penalties! Different insurances cater to specific needs to travelers (low-cost, medical, international travel) so choose one than fits your travel style and budget.

MAKE COPIES OF IMPORTANT DOCUMENTS

Although nearly everything is sent via email or saved on a back-up drive now, it’s important to realize the value of hard copies. Should your travel documents be lost or stolen, it’s critical to have them saved elsewhere. Keep a folder of these documents on you at all times (in your purse or carry-on) while traveling, and email them to yourself before your trip for added precaution.

  • Passport (Identification page with photo.)
  • Visa
  • Travel Insurance
  • Driver’s License
  • Credit Cards (front and back.)
  • Travel Itinerary
  • Airline Tickets
  • Reservation Confirmations (hotel, rental car, cruise tickets, etc.)
  • Vaccination Certificates

BOOK ACCOMMODATION

It may be tempting to be spontaneous and book your hotel rooms or lodging on a whim, but it’s not usually something I recommend. Events like holidays and festivals can be a nightmare if you don’t already have accommodation booked.

Don’t be stuck with the leftover, low grade rooms and instead book at least a month in advance. Hotel staff insiders even admit that those who book through their website or over the phone usually get better rooms than those who book last minute or through other online booking sites. Be sure to read online reviews, and beware of additional charges like parking, cleaning, and pool/spa fees.

 

HAVE A WELL PACKED CARRY-ON

In addition to your travel documents (and copies), you’ll want to have some basic essentials within arm’s reach:

Headphones: Thin hotel walls and noisy plane passengers are inevitable, so come prepared and pack a pair of headphones that can easily plug into your phone or iPod.

Dramamine Non-Drowsy Naturals: Better than any generic ginger chews on the market, Dramamine Non-Drowsy Naturals contains the clinically-tested ginger dosage required for preventing and treating motion sickness common on planes, boats, and windy drives.

Scott and I both suffer from motion sickness on rocky boats and flights, but we’re hesitant to take something that is going to make us drowsy. I tried these Non-Drowsy Naturals on a recent trip to Kauai –during a zodiac tour of the notoriously choppy Na Pali coast as well as a bumpy helicopter ride — and I did not feel a hint of nausea! These are our new go-to motion sickness pills and it’s something I will not leave home without.

Hand Sanitizer: Don’t overestimate your immune system; the last thing you want on your vacation is to catch a cold. Hand sanitizer, or antibacterial hand wipes, should be compact and easy to stash in your carry-on.

Power Converter: One of the most important things travelers often forget to bring on international trips is a power converter. Check online to see which converter you’ll need for the country you are visiting. I always bring at least two because I have so many electronics to charge.

Reusable Water Bottle: Leave it empty as you pass through security in the airport, of course, but carrying a water bottle with a filter attached will save you money regardless of where you fly! No more shelling out money for bottled water or worrying about catching an illness internationally.

How to See Kauai’s Na Pali Coast

Have you dreamed of visiting the Garden Isle of Hawaii? Kauai is home to stunning natural wonders including Waimea Canyon, Hanalei Bay and Wai’ale’ale Crater, but no visit to Kauai is complete without visiting the majestic 17-mile stretch of the Na Pali Coast.

You have three options when visiting the Na Pali Coast — hiking, helicopter tour and boat ride. I’ll go over each of these options below, but if you only have time for one of these activities while visiting Kauai, book a helicopter flight!

HELICOPTER TOUR

By far, the best way to view the Na Pali Coast is by Helicopter because most of the areas are inaccessible by land or sea. I booked a flight with Blue Hawaiian Helicopters — the same company we used for a helicopter tour of Maui — and from start to finish, the service was top notch.

If you plan to take any photos, Blue Hawaiian’s pilots fly on the left of the aircraft which means there’s more seating for the best views of the Na Pali Coast. All of the helicopter tours fly from the south, up the coast, so you’ll want to be on the right side of the aircraft and most of Blue Hawaiian’s passenger seats are on this side. I also highly recommend requesting Shay as your pilot!

Blue Hawaiian also provides black shirts to every guest (as a courtesy) because black reduces glare on the windows. I’ve been on flights where the other passengers are wearing white or detailed print clothing — which means their clothing choices are affecting everyone’s photos.

BOAT TOUR

I’ve been on two boat tours of the Na Pali Coast. The first was on a large Catamaran with Blue Dolphin Charters. The weather did not cooperate on this particular trip in June, so many of the passengers got seasick. I have to say, the staff was amazing catering to everyone’s needs — running around, feeding everyone saltines and Ginger Ale, but if you do get seasick, take Dramamine!

My second boating experience along this coast was during the last week of August and the weather was absolutely perfect. I booked a zodiac tour with Holo Holo Charters. The zodiac tours provide a closer look at the caves along the cliffs, but I would not want to be in a zodiac on a choppy day.

Both of the above tours go to the same snorkeling spot along this coast. If you are looking for the best snorkeling on the island, this is not the trip to book. For snorkeling, I recommend Poipu Beach or Tunnels.

HIKING

You can hike in some areas of the Na Pali Coast — depending on the weather — but the hikes are not for the faint of heart. This side of Kauai is extremely wet, which results in muddy and slippery conditions along the edges of the towering cliffs. If you do hike the Na Pali Coast, please come prepared with walking sticks and plenty of food and water and check the weather beforehand!

We hiked a section of the Kalalau Trail (an 11-mile trail that leads from Ke’e Beach to Kalalau Beach) and were advised by a ranger to turn around after 2-miles due to flash flood warnings. The day before we arrived, hikers ignored these advisories and were forced to spend the night along the trail because the water level was too high to pass on their return trip.

HOW TO PACK FOR THE NA PALI COAST

Whether you’re hiking or taking a tour along this strip of coastline, there’s a few things you won’t want to forget.

Checklist-IconTrekking Poles: If you plan to do any hiking, bring foldable hiking sticks! Many of our fellow hikers wished they had walking sticks to keep them from falling in the mud and assisting with the river crossings.

Checklist-IconDramamine: Definitely bring this for any of the boat rides along the Na Pali Coast and you may even want to take one before your helicopter flight; it can get bumpy. Dramamine has a Non-Drowsy version that we bring on all of our trips.

Checklist-IconDark Clothing: Wear dark, solid clothing on the helicopter flight — preferably black.

Checklist-IconRain Gear: Let me just say, plan for rain on the Na Pali Coast. Bring a poncho or, even better, a light rain coat.

Checklist-IconHiking Shoes: I forgot my hiking shoes on my first trip to Kauai and my running shoes were completely ruined after hiking the Na Pali Coast. Hiking shoes with ankle support are even better.

Checklist-IconGo Pro: Your camera gear will likely get wet, whether you are hiking or taking a boat tour of the coast. I got soaked on both boat tours of the Na Pali Coast. If you take the zodiac tour with Holo Holo Charters, they will take you underneath waterfalls, so don’t plan on bringing any non-waterproof camera gear! We bring our Go Pro Hero 4 and a selfie stick on all of our adventures. (See our complete travel camera buying guide here.)

Checklist-IconDaypack: We were so happy to have our hiking daypack with attached rainfly. It rained for almost three hours straight during our hike and everything except my camera gear was thoroughly soaked.