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Travel Tips

 How do you find your way around in a strange city?
By Mary Latham, President

We used to get fold up maps that you had to spread on a table to read. Remember trying to read them in a car or while walking on the street? Things have really changed. Now it’s apps you download to your smart phone. You can easily walk around a strange city or drive through a new area while guided by your phone. How simple and easy!

One app we recently used in New York City that really helped was KickMap, a map of the New York subway system. It can be a little intimidating to think about riding the subway around such a big city with so many different trains but KickMap was all we needed. It was easy to download and install. It was simple and easy to use. Select your location and your destination and the app tells you which train you need to take, where the nearest station is located, whether there is any transfer needed and, if so, where to make the transfer to the next train. It also advises how long it will take to reach your destination and the time your train will depart. You also get the schedule of all possible trains, station information and a street map. At only $2.99, it turned out to be the best bargain we had for our trip.

KickMap also has maps for other transit systems, including Washington, D.C. and the London Tube. KickMap is not the only app of this kind. There are many others. If you are planning a trip to a new city, search your app store for street maps or transit system maps for your destination. Using an app is much simpler and easier that trying to deal with paper maps in a book or that you have to continuously unfold and refold.

There are many other apps and websites that make travel more convenient and planning your trips easier. If you have suggestions or recommendations for apps or websites that have made you travels easier, please share them with other members of our club. I am giving a big Thanks to Sharri McIntosh and her son-in-law to be for recommending KickMap New York to us before this trip. Using this app, we navigated the New York subway system like native New Yorkers.



A travel tip from FF Houston


My colleagues in Kuwait tipped me off to a good website to plan your flights: Matrix - ITA Software by Google: https://matrix.itasoftware.com/

To my knowledge, it works with all commercial airlines; it can do complicated routings and fare structures; it gives nice visual graphics comparing several routings. On the webpage, you can hover over each of the bar elements to see details. You can't buy tickets on it, but you can then use the results on your regular website to book your flights. If you are using a travel agent, it gives the exact fare construction details so they can get you the same thing. Matrix Airfare Search Welcome to Matrix 3.0 Matrix showcases some of the freshest travel search ideas from ITA Software. Version 3.0 has been completely rebuilt to run on Google technology. - Cost per mile filter - Geo Search – search by airport code, city, or nearby airport - Interactive Calendar – explore date ranges and lowest fares - Real-time Filters – focus on flights that suit your preferences - Color-coded Time Bars – compare flights at a glance.

 

Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)

from Mary Latham, President

With the turmoil in certain parts of the world and natural disasters occurring without warning, some people are hesitant to travel abroad. Friendship Force members will still travel, but they travel as informed travelers after fully evaluating the risks. A rumor is not enough to hold back a determined FF member. But what if something unexpected happens after you leave? What if there is civil unrest, or a revolution? What if a volcano suddenly erupts or there is an earthquake or other natural disaster? What if your family back home desperately needs to reach you?

How can I get help in an emergency outside the US?

One thing every informed traveler should do before departing or even buying a ticket, is check with the US Department of State (DOS) for any travel warning. Currently the DOS has advisories for Lebanon, El Salvador, Nigeria and North Korea. There is also a broad warning for all international travelers to exercise caution.

Conditions change suddenly so travelers need to keep up with what is happening even after they are abroad. An easy way to do that is to enroll in the DOS STEP program. It only takes a few minutes set up an account. Then you simply update information each time you travel. If you do not want to set up an account, you can register for one trip.

The nearest Embassy or Consulate will then know that you are in its area.

How will DOS help me in an emergency?

Once you have registered your trip, you will receive notices and information from DOS as conditions change in your destination country. When you are in the country, you will continue to get updates. Keep your mobile handy and charged. On our exchange to Santiago, Chile, last year, our members who had registered with STEP received notice of a student demonstration in downtown Santiago. Our members were then able to ask our hosts if this would be a problem for our activities that day as the group was touring downtown.

Other assistance from DOS will depend on the nature of the crisis. You may be advised to leave the country or seek shelter. If you are advised to leave you should use commercial transportation or follow DOS instructions. In extreme emergencies when commercial transportation is not available, DOS will assist with your evacuation. You will be transported to nearest safe location, not necessarily back to the US. And, one other thing, you must reimburse DOS for the cost of the evacuation in an amount of a commercial ticket. That is a small price to pay to be able to leave quickly and safely.

If you lose your passport, you can always go to the nearest Embassy or Consulate to get a replacement and if registered in STEP, the Embassy has your information and knows you are in the country.
How do I register for STEP?

This is only a summary of STEP. For more information or to register go to
https://step.state.gov/step

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