Planning List for Vacationing with Your Dog

Most people take plenty of time to plan out their vacations, choosing the right hotels and the perfect destinations for a fun and relaxing journey. But when you travel with a pet, there are other things you need to consider from a small and fury perspective. Here are some things you should think about when traveling with your dog. The do’s and don’ts, planning and preparation.

Identification and Records – The first, and most important thing to remember is identification. This is important not only for your pet’s health, but also in case the dog becomes lost. All tags should be firmly attached to your dogs collar, and keeping a couple photos on hand is also a good idea. Vaccination records should always be on hand when traveling with a dog, in the event that an emergency arises.

Remember the Obvious – Surprisingly enough, the things that are the most obvious, are the things you most often forget. Leashes, collars, kennels, and even first aid kits are some of the important must-have’s that can be forgotten. Also don’t forget food and water! Even if your destination supplies it for you. Travel bowls and containers can make this job easier and can be found at most pet supply stores. While food is important, if you are traveling by car it is also important to let your pet travel on an empty stomach during the ride to avoid motion sickness. Water should always be provided though, keeping your pooch hydrated is extremely important.

Extras – Other things to remember are the extras. Things like dog treats and favorite toys should also be remembered. It is a good idea to bring something from home, like a blanket or a bed that smells like home and will comfort your dog while traveling to a strange place. This helps to keep the stress levels to a minimum and keep your dog happy.

Lodging – Remember to always check for hotels that accept dogs, and ask what the rules are for keeping pets in the hotel. Also keep your dog on a leash at all times,(unless in a private room) and never leave your pet unattended. When walking your dog, make sure you are aware of the places this is allowed by asking the hotel management, and never forget to pick up after your dog.

Tips for Efficient Airport Travel

Airport Travel is notoriously a hassle. Some of the headaches are self-induced, however, or at least self-preventable. You have no control over most of the inconveniences, but some you do. Make your travel as efficient and streamlined as possible to reduce your chances of getting hassled by airport or airline personnel. Your goal from packing to getting through security to reaching your destination should be to do so in as an efficient manner as possible. The following are tips for maximum efficient airport travel.

Efficient Packing and Check In

Do this as early as possible. Last minute packing is not efficient and you will make mistakes. Check the weight allowances of the airline. How many bags will the airline allow you to check and how many carry-ons? Whether to pack a checked bag or a carry-on depends on many factors, and packing the right suitcase is very efficient. If you are going home, you don’t care about lost luggage, as you have more clothes at home, therefore checking your bag would be efficient and you won’t have to lug a suitcase around the airport. If you are going on a short trip, then taking only a carry-on can be very efficient as I will discuss later.

Pack nothing of value unless you absolutely must. Packing irreplaceable or expensive items is not efficient as it will cause you to worry and influence your packing. Pack only what you absolutely need for the trip. It is efficient to pack toiletry items in the checked bag to avoid hassle at security, and if they are lost, you can always buy more at your destination. Packing expensive creams or any toiletries in your carry-on is not efficient.

Weighing your bags before leaving home is efficient. You can use a bathroom scale by weighing yourself first without the bag, then hold the suitcase and get back on the scale and subtract the difference. If your suitcase is even a couple pounds overweight, they may make you repack or pay more money. Either way, this is not efficient and will increase your stress level at the airport.

Filling out luggage tags before you go to the airport is efficient and is one less thing you have to do while checking in. If you print your itinerary, it is efficient to keep it to one page, folded and in your pocket to refer to it easily until you no longer need it.

Efficient Airport Security

Wear a shirt with a front pocket. This is the most efficient place to keep your passport or other ID and your boarding pass. You will have to present them possibly multiple times, and it is not efficient to be searching in a bag each time. Keeping them in a front pocket is efficient because you can easily glance down and check that they are still there instead of searching through another pocket. Never set your passport and boarding pass down anywhere. If you set it down somewhere, especially while you are flustered going through airport security, then you increase your chances of forgetting to pick it back up again. It might also get stolen or lost. When the airport security person hands it back to you, put it immediately back in your front shirt pocket.

Wearing a watch, jewelry or having change in your pocket is not efficient. This will be an extra hassle going through airport security. Prior to even getting into the airport security line, remove your cell phone, wallet, keys, change, jewelry and watch and put them into your carry-on or backpack. Fishing things out of your pockets while you are being rushed through the metal detector is not efficient.

Wear pants that don’t require a belt. Removing a belt and then having to put it back on again is not efficient. Wear shoes that easily slip on and off. Having to re-tie your shoes or squeeze into them is not efficient.

Going through airport security with an entire family, especially with small kids is not efficient and could be a nightmare. Try having a trial run at your home with the whole family. Make sure everyone is packed and wearing the clothes they will wear at the airport. Have one of the adults pretend to be airport security and each person should pretend to put his or her bag on the conveyor belt and go through the metal detector. This can identify problems ahead of time, such as a kid’s shoes being not efficient to remove or someone wearing too much jewelry.

Efficient Layover

The most efficient layover is about two hours in duration. Any more is a waste of time. Any less and you run the risk of a delay causing you to miss your connecting flight. One efficient advantage of not checking a suitcase is if your first flight lands on time and you can catch an earlier connecting flight, you can talk to an airline agent about getting on an earlier flight. They will only do this for you if you have no checked bags. Federal law requires that you be on the same flight as your luggage, so if your luggage is already tagged to be on your original flight, you cannot board an earlier one.

When you land at your connecting airport, it is efficient to find your next gate as soon as possible. Once you find it and ensure that nothing is wrong or that your next flight isn’t taking off early (yes, that does happen sometimes) then you can do something else like shop at the nearby stores.

In your carry-on, it is efficient to only pack one book or one iPod or one thing to work on. Many people pack multiple things to keep themselves entertained or busy but only end up using one thing. Decide on only one thing to pack to keep yourself occupied in order to be most efficient.

Packing a sandwich or two in your carry-on is efficient as it will prevent you from having to waste time and money buying costly food at the airport. The days of being fed a good meal or any meal on each flight are over. Packing sandwiches might not work if you are traveling internationally and are forbidden from transporting food items.

Getting thirsty while traveling is not efficient. It can give you a headache and cause you to make mistakes. Since you are not allowed to bring water with you through security, and buying bottled water is very expensive, maximize drinking water on the flight. Each time the flight attendant comes by asking if you want anything, get a glass of water. Ordering water only will keep you hydrated and on top of your game. The other drinks may be tempting, but anything with caffeine or alcohol will dehydrate you and make you lose your edge. Even juice contains a lot of sugar. To be the most efficient at proper health while traveling, hydrate as often as possible on the plane.

If you follow all these tips for efficient airport travel, then you will reach your destination having experienced less stress than you would have otherwise and will be ready to start the real part of your journey. All you have to do now is pick up your luggage, if you checked any, and find a way to get to where you are going. Making an inherently troublesome experience into a more efficient one will get you to your destination safer, healthier and happier.

Tips for Driving in Italy

Sometimes driving in a foreign country can be very confusing and nerve wracking. Maybe the tips below will help you in some way.

No doubt Italy is a beautiful country. Italy does offer a little bit of all kinds of scenery. There’s always something to see.

1) First you must have a full UK license and be 18 or older. So even if you have a license and are 17, you cannot drive in Italy.
2) Always drive on the right hand side of the road, and pass on the left hand side.
3) No cell phone use unless have a hands free kit. They feel this cuts down on accidents.
4) Seatbelts are mandatory in Italy, both front and back.
5) You can be fined if you have a child under the age of 12 in the front seat.
6) It is also mandatory that you carry with you a reflective vest and a reflective triangle at all times.
7) If you are visiting Italy, it is worthwhile to carry registration papers, insurance papers and driving license on your person.

Speed limits there are very strict. Speed limits are as follows:
• Motorway Speeds 13km/h
• Main Highways 110km/h
• Trunk Roads 90km/h
• Residential Road 50km/h

If you have been driving less than 3 years, you are not permitted to drive over 100km/h on motorways or 90km/h on main highways.

Also limit your alcohol to only 50mg per 100ml of blood volume.

The following is a short list of road rules you might find helpful:
• Buses, emergency vehicles, trams and trains have the right of way.
• Even in daylight hours headlights should be on
• You must have EU style license plates and GB sticker if car is not registered in Italy
• You must give right of way to traffic joining from the right.
• Priority is given to the car traveling upward on a hill or mountain
• Due to smog conditions at times, traffic may be halted. At other times they may switch to odd and even license plates
• You stay in your car at gas stations as most have attendants on duty. They will pump your fuel for you
• You cannot buy leaded fuel in Italy
• Due to numerous mountains there are many long tunnels and bridges

There are many historic centres in Italy. You must obtain a pass for these centres. Each city requires an individual pass. Anything marked ZTL in black on a yellow background requires a pass.
Enjoy your trip to Italy. If you plan on doing any driving maybe these tips will help.

Green Tips for Eco-friendly Camping

Camping can be a great experience for both you and your family. After all, it gets the kids away from electronics and video games and also lets parents relax and enjoy the great outdoors. Camping also is a great time to go green and reduce your carbon footprint. And what could be better than going green when you’re outside? So before you pack up for your next trip to the great outdoors, check out these eco-friendly tips to make your camping experience greener.

Ditch the Disposables

I don’t think I’ve ever been on a camping trip where we didn’t use disposable flatware. However, it’s important to remember that many disposable and plastic dishes and flatware are not the best for the environment. Think of it this way: they use fuel and paper or oil to produce and they’ll most likely end up in landfills and take years and years to break down into the soil. It’s much better just to use reusable dishes and silverware that can be easy washed with water and biodegradable soap after dinner.

Stick to Your Campsite

Campsites are designated as such for a good reason. They are clearings of land that have been specially made for tents, bonfires, picnic tables, and more. They often don’t have threatened or endangered plant species on them either. Because of this, they’re ideal for camping and they’re what you should stick to when pitching a tent. It might seem like a better idea to find your own campsite where it’s flatter or where there is more shade, but it’s important to remain on your campsite. You could be harming plants and other species if you decide to camp elsewhere.

Go Biodegradable

While you’re camping, it may be a good idea to wash your clothes, your body, or your flatware. In that case, it’s also good to use biodegradable soap too. Biodegradable soap is much easier on the environment and it also biodegrades much easier too. There are tons of great brands out there, but I personally love Coleman’s Biodegradable Soap, which sells for around $4 for 2 ounces. It smells great and is good for the environment. Not only that, but it’s for numerous uses too!

Clean Up

The number one rule about sustainable and green camping is to not leave a trace. You shouldn’t leave any garbage or harm any plant or wildlife while you’re camping. This can means things as simple as bringing your own fire wood instead of searching for it within the woods. It also means bringing your own garbage bags and taking your trash with you or disposing of it in the proper waste containers that are available within the park.

Go Organic

There are so many different ways you can go organic when camping. You can buy organic camping or hiking clothing, food, bug spray, sun block, and more. Organic uses no pesticides when farming, so there is no pesticide runoff into nearby bodies of water. Organic also uses sustainable farming practices to protect from soil erosion. So buy organic for your next camping trip!

Complete Guide to New York City’s Subway System

 The appeal of New York City to tourists from around the United States and around the entire world is clear: the city is filled with something for everyone, with world-famous destinations such as the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty, world-class museums such as the American Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, world-class food, and a thriving nightlife. New York City is also famous for another, not-so-welcoming reason: it is one of the most unpleasant places to drive, with traffic jams simply a party of everyday life.

Fortunately, getting around the city is much easier by avoiding the above-ground mess of traffic and utilizing New York’s extensive subway network. New York City has the largest subway in the world in terms of numbers of stations and is the third most utilized subway system in the world, as well as by far the most utilized system in the United States. If there was a better way to get around the city, New Yorkers would be using it, and it only takes a trip on a crowded train during the AM or PM rush hours to see that isn’t the case.

While there’s no doubt the subway is the fastest, cheapest, and most reliable way to get around the city, the sheer size of the system, with 21 lines (not including three shuttles) and 468 stations, is incredibly intimidating to users not familiar with either the subway system or the city above. This guide will inform you how to use the subway, how to pay your fare, how to navigate the system, and transfer between lines.

Before diving into the underground, it’s worth looking at a map of above-ground New York to get an idea of how the city is planned. While lower Manhattan can be incredibly confusing without any clear grid structure, north of 14th st the city is very easy to navigate. Above 14th st, roads are organized clearly into Avenues and streets – Avenues run south/north, streets run east/west. The distance between avenues is almost always much greater than the distance between streets, so the walk between 7th and 8th avenues will be a lot longer than a walk between 42nd and 43rd st. The grid structure of upper Manhattan makes it very easy to find where you want to go; as long as you know what street/avenue you are on, where you want to go, and which direction you are facing, you pretty much can’t get lost. Street numbers increase as you go north, and avenue numbers increase as you go west.

Along the streets of New York, you will find the entrances to the 468 subway stations in the system – each station usually has several entrances, most of which are clearly visible. Sometimes the entrance will be in the side of a building or hard to find, but you will usually see an “M” sign or other sign showing where the entrance is. Note that, while it’s usually OK to enter any entrance to the station, certain times you must enter on a specific side of the street depending on which direction you are heading. This will be noted on the entrance, where the subway lines that stop at the station are also marked. The sign may say, “Uptown/Bronx only”. If you want to go downtown or to Brooklyn, then you will need to enter across the street. More will be including on directions in a bit.

Once you enter the station (be aware that the entrances are the same as the exits, so stay to the right) you will find the fare collection system (turnstiles) and several machines where you can purchase a Metrocard, which will be your key to the system. These machines are operated via touch screen, and assuming you will be travelling around quite a lot, you will want to purchase an unlimited Metrocard. Depending on how long your stay will be, you can purchase a 1-day ($8.25) , 7-day ($27.00) , 14-day ($51.50) , or 30-day ($89.00) unlimited Metrocard. These unlimited metrocards will allow you unlimited use of not only the subway, but also the New York City bus system, and Staten Island Railroad (Staten Island is a short (and free!) ferry ride away from Manhattan). A single subway ride costs $2.25, which can quickly add up – so if you are going to be travelling even 3-4 times per day, it becomes cheaper (and more convenient) to buy an unlimited card.

Once you have your Metrocard (you can pay with credit, debit, or cash – note that the same credit card can only be used 2 times per day at the Metrocard machines before the system will reject it) you are ready to enter the system. The Metrocard is swiped with the yellow Metrocard-side facing you. If you swipe the card correctly with the right speed, you will see “Go!” on the display. Swiping the card too fast or slow, however, and you’ll have to try again.

Once you get past the fare collection system, you will have to decide what line and what direction you will be travelling. Most subway stations are home to several subway lines. There will be directions within the station guiding you to where you need to go. It’s important to realize that every subway line operates in two directions, so you need to make sure you’re going the right way. For most lines, the choices (assuming you are in Manhattan) will be, “Uptown and the Bronx” or “Downtown and Brooklyn”. Uptown is north, downtown is south. So if you are at 33rd st and want to go to a station at 50th st, you know you need “Uptown”. If you want to go to 14th st, you need to go “Downtown.” Sometimes the uptown/downtown tracks will be right across from each other on the same platform, other times they are separated.

Because multiple subway lines exist at the same station, you can transfer between different lines free of charge – meaning that you can get anywhere in the city for the base $2.25 fare, even if getting there means taking 6 different lines. Sometimes a transfer is very easy, with the train you are transferring to being on the same track or across the platform, and other times the line will be in another station connected via an underground tunnel.

Once you are on the train (be sure to let those exiting the train exit before you get on), you may get a seat or you may have to stand, depending largely on what day/time you are travelling at (your chances of getting a seat at 5 PM on a weekday is virtually zero). If you are a healthy individual, be sure to remember that others may need a seat more than you, so don’t steal a seat from a pregnant woman or an elderly person. If you can’t get a seat, be sure to hold on to a pole or else you will be flying around once the train begins moving or stops.

The New York subway is made up of a number of different subway trains – some still dating to the 1960s and others only several years old. The newer trains have pre-recorded computer announcements which are easy to hear and clear, a digital map of the line so you can easily see where you are and going, and an LCD display showing the direction/next stop/time of day. Older trains are not quite as convenient, with the conductor’s announcements often not being clear and only a general NYC subway map in every car. Remember to exercise common sense while in the train: don’t be holding an expensive cell phone and your wallet in plain view, while sitting right next to the exit where you are looking very tempting for a thief. The system is generally very safe, but that doesn’t mean that small thefts don’t happen.

When you reach your stop and are exiting the train, note that each subway station has multiple exits. Depending on where you are going, you may want to exit at a particular exit. Paying attention to the location of the exit “ie. 34th and 8th NW corner” will allow you to orient yourself when above-ground.

While this guide has hopefully given you a clear look at how to use and navigate the NYC subway system, if you are new to the system it will be important to have a map or get directions from a service such as Google Maps, Hopstop, or MTA’s (Metropolitan Transit Authority) own website. You can get a subway map from the MTA website or at a station booth (do note that due to budget shortfalls, MTA has removed station attendants from nany stations, so there will not always be a subway employee at the station to answer questions.) If you already have a subway map, you may want to pick up a new one because several changes have been made effective June 27, 2010, and a new map is available.

Enjoy New York City, and have a safe trip on the subway!

Complete Guide to New York City’s Subway System

Neighborhood: Manhattan
New York, NY 10035
United States of America

Hotels You May Want To Avoid

One of my favorite travel features is Trip Advisor’s Dirtiest Hotel picks. This year’s selections for Dirtiest Hotel contain some frightening entries. There’s the usual smattering of dirty and run-down and then there are the truly bizarre entries like these on the dirty hotel list:

The hotel listed as #10 dirtiest hotel in Asia probably would have made my personal #1 filth offender list if I visited and encounted the conditions described. Mahkota Hotel Melaka in Melaka, Malaysia was given a thumbs down by only 69% of reviewers. But the description of the tap water as yellowish brown along with a photo of urine-colored liquid pouring from a faucet is enough to convince me this hotel is overrated. Eight percent of reviewers called this hotel “excellent” while 46 percent called it “terrible.” This hotel is supposedly a 4 star hotel, but it’s hard to imagine how it laid claim to those stars when its guests say it provides yellow water that gives users rashes, has cigarette butts in the swimming pool, and is in decrepit condition (holes in the ceiling, toilets that don’t flush and ripped carpets.)

Club Aqua Gumbet in Gumbet, Turkey was named worst in Europe after 121 of 165 reviewers rated it “terrible.” The most disgusting complaint about the place is the sewer emptying into the pool when it rains, but in case you’re thinking it might be okay outside of rainy season, consider the reports of dry blood on the bedroom floor, a lack of hot water, dirty bedding, loose wires, and even a poisonous spider biting a guest inside the room.

As for a hotel to avoid in the USA, there’s Atlantic Beach Hotel in Miami. When a thief posing as concierge set up outside the hotel to steal wallets, the staff declined to ask him to leave on the grounds that he was polite, according to one reviewer. Another reviewer woke up to a stabbing in progress and pepper spray being sprayed by police. While one could ordinarily pass this off as the rare occurrence, it’s a little hard to do so when another reviewer said she awoke to the stinging of pepper spray as the police chased down prostitutes at the hotel. Almost makes the moldy smell and broken-down fixtures others reported seem trivial.

Raj Residency in Chennai, India was only the #2 worst hotel in India, according to Trip Advisor reviewers. But at #2, it harbored some frightening conditions. One visitor pulled back a curtain in his sixth floor room to find a filthy floor to ceiling window; the visitor tried to wash the window with a paper towel, only to have it swing open without warning. Another guest complained that his room was locked with a padlock from the outside and unlockable from the inside. Other guests report infestations of bedbugs, mosquitoes, and cockroaches. But the most appalling report of all is that of the family that got stuck in the elevator for almost 2 hours, ultimately having to climb out between floors, only to have the hotel management respond to their complaint by saying they could have been left to rot inside the stuck elevator.

Vegetarian’s Guide to Restaurant Food

If you’ve been a vegetarian for any length of time, then you know all too well how frustrating it can be to eat at restaurants. Some restaurants view a salad bar as an acceptable menu choice for vegetarians. If you’re lucky enough to find a restaurant with an actual meat-free entrée, chances are that this will be your one and only option on the menu and the dish will be one that you’ve had thousands of times before. So what’s a veg to do? Follow this guide for a happy dining experience, vegetarian-style.

Most waiters don’t really think about what goes into the food that they serve. Some waiters are simply ignorant about what makes a dish vegetarian. There has been many a waiter that mistakenly believes a “vegetarian” dish is one with no visible chunks of meat. They think nothing of chicken stock, anchovy paste, gelatin, or any number of “invisible” animal products that can go into a dish. Therefore, being told that a dish is vegetarian does not necessarily make it so.

Three Red Flags That Your Vegetarian Dish Actually Contains Dead Animals:

1. You ask if the dish is vegetarian and the waiter hesitates before giving you an answer. If the waiter must think about it, then they don’t actually know. They are simply picturing the dish in their mind, imagining the ingredients that go into it, and using their best judgment to provide you with an answer. If they contemplate the issue and declare a meal to be meat-free, they are probably wrong.

2. If the waiter looks at the food to determine the presence of animal products, you cannot trust their answer. They are simply looking for visible signs of meat. This is most likely to occur in a buffet-style restaurant.

3. The waiter says, “No, there isn’t any meat in the dish.” Again, they are just telling you that no chunks of meat are present. They aren’t even thinking about less-visible animal products.

Conversely, there are certain signs that indicate when a waiter can be trusted.

Your Meal Is Likely Meat-Free When:

1. The waiter’s response is without hesitation and he/she tells you why the dish is meat-free. For example, instead of stating, “Yes, this dish is vegetarian,” they also tell you, “this dish contains no meat, poultry, seafood, or egg products – but it does contain dairy.” This added information is an indicator that they are at least aware of what makes food vegetarian.

2. You request a vegetarian entrée and the waiter asks if dairy and eggs are ok. Again, this waiter is knowledgeable about the food they are serving and sensitive to vegetarian’s needs.

3. The menu specifically states that the dish is vegetarian or vegan.

Some Restaurants Are More Veg-Friendly Than Others

When it comes to finding a restaurant that will please vegetarians and omnivores alike, look for restaurants that meet one or more of the following criteria:

1. High-end: Expensive restaurants tend to have more knowledgeable wait staff, more vegetarian options, and a wider variety of options. You probably won’t find the over-used spaghetti with marinara sauce at a fancy restaurant. Even if the menu doesn’t list any vegetarian options, the highly-skilled chefs are more likely to make a special dish just for you.

2. Choose a steak house over a seafood restaurant. Steak houses almost always have at least one vegetarian dish, whether it’s pasta or a portobello mushroom “steak.” Seafood restaurants rarelyserve vegetarian meals. Their pasta dishes, though they may appear vegetarian, almost always contain clam sauce or some other sea creature flavoring.

3. Italian food and pizza are the easiest to make vegetarian. If you want choices, restaurants that serve these foods are your best bet. Pasta and pizza can be made in an infinite number of ways and are highly customizable. Whether you choose your own toppings or you order a gourmet vegetarian pizza, good food is easy to find.

Finally,

Never assume that a dish is vegetarian unless you cooked it yourself.

Anything from pizza, to pasta, to rice, soup, and Chinese vegetables can be cooked with chicken stock. When in doubt, always ask. Then follow the guidelines above.

By taking some simple precautions and trusting your gut (ha ha, get it?), you can ensure that your vegetarian dining experience is a pleasant one.