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USELFUL LINKS:
State Department Travel Information
FlightAware Flight Tracking
Hotels.com
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Important news before you travel:

If you are in the United States you should be aware of certain Travel Advisories which are given to citizens who choose to travel abroad. These advisories can affect you and may even change your travel plans. So before you go to the airport you should always check to see if your destination country is on the List of the United States Government Travel Advisories.

For more information: Check out the link below which will send you to the US Governments official website.


https://travel.state.gov
TIPS ON MAKING HOTEL RESERVATIONS:


When traveling for business or fun, there’s nothing worse than thinking you have a reservation and learning your hotel reservations been lost, your room has one bed and not two bedrooms, or you thought your check-in time was noon, only to find out it is really 3:00pm. To help avoid these things from happening, there are a few helpful hotel reservation tips seasoned travelers recommend:

Always use a credit card when making a hotel reservation. A credit cards offers the guest some level of protection should the hotel stay go awry. Any disputes a guest may have with the hotel, or with the billing can more easily be rectified through the credit card company. The card company will act as a mediator once their client can show effort to resolve the dispute. Additionally, if a dispute cannot be resolved, the credit card company has the authority to remove the charge from a client’s bill. If cash were paid, a hotel guest would have no recourse. Note: If you don’t use your own credit card to secure a reservation, be aware that the person whose name is on the card will be responsible for showing the card and signing at check in. If the card does not belong to the person staying at the hotel, notify the desk before leaving home (prior to arrival) and ask what their identification procedure is. They may accept a letter from the credit card holder authorizing use, and a copy of both the front and back of the card.

Ask for deals/discounts at each hotel. Many hotels offer corporate, AAA, senior, or even mid-week/off-season discounts. If one is not offered - ask about them. Many hotels now offer ‘rewards’ programs and some hotels reduce rates by $50 or more, for simply signing up for their program. If making reservations online, look for internet-only rates and shop various websites to find the best deals. Travel agents can often secure unadvertised specials or late check-in opportunities which can translate into huge savings.

When making reservations speak clearly and repeat spelling of all names. There have been many reservations lost because of inaccurate spelling and guests have been told they did not have rooms when a hotel or an entire city was booked to capacity. If any special requests are made, verify them and if possible get them in writing. Also make sure to get the name of the employee. Verify everything spell names and verify information/requests etc. Double check reservations prior to leaving for hotel and make sure names of all hotel employees you’ve spoken to are taken.

When reservations are made, changed and cancelled-confirmation numbers are given. Make sure all numbers are kept in a safe place until credit cards are billed and all charges are verified. Cancellation and confirmation numbers are often the difference between being charged for a hotel reservation that was cancelled, the possibility of a free upgrade when the hotel overbooks and you can prove when your reservation was made, and being stranded away from home without a room for the night.
Discuss hotel policies prior to making reservations, and verify them at check-in. Some hotels require credit cards at check in for any hotel charges, such as telephone usage, room service, meals in the hotel, or even take -out arranged through the hotel with area restaurants, etc. If a credit card is not available, a cash/check deposit maybe required for any services/fees that may accrue during the hotel stay. Determine when check-in/check-out times are, when cancellation policies go into affect and verify occupancy limits if staying in a room with multiple occupants.

Remember these hotel reservation tips when scheduling your travel plans. Whether by internet, through a travel agent, or by telephone, it pays to research the hotel and be meticulous when making arrangements. A little pre-planning when making reservations can save major headaches when traveling away from home.
AIRPORT TIPS YOU CAN USE

To make your way to a flight on time and to get throught security as quickly as possible you can try the following tips:

1) Sign up. The TSA's PreCheck, a trusted traveler program, has spread to more cities across the U.S. and is now available at some 40 airports. Members of the program are pre-screened and can then whiz through security, sometimes without having to take off their shoes or remove laptops from cases. The U.S. Customs Department's Global Entry program is another shortcut for frequent international travelers, especially as the federal government contracts and customs lines potentially get longer.

Critical Security Checkpoints:
To make clearing security as easy as possible...
-Review the guidelines for liquids and gels on your Flight carriers Carry-On Baggage page before your flight.
-Have your government-issued photo identification and boarding pass ready for inspection.
-Wear shoes that are easy to slip on and off, since all footwear must be x-rayed.
-Remember to place all coats and jackets in a bin for x-ray screening.
-Make your laptop easily accessible for inspection.
-Avoid wearing anything metal or place these items in your carry-on baggage for screening

2) Check flight status. Although this is obvious, many people often fail to do this one simple but critical thing.

I recommend doing the same before abandoning your ride or your car just before you head to the terminal; flight status updates change by the minute, so a last-second check is always a good idea.

Most airlines will text you flight status updates if you sign up on their Web sites, and sites like Flightaware.com do the same by text, on the Web and through smartphone apps.

4) Check in online. Especially if you are not checking bags, this can save you a heap of time. I have found that when checking bags, having the pre-printed boarding pass in your hand doesn't help all that much, and check-in agents often reissue another boarding pass when you check in your bags -- but it sure doesn't hurt.

5) Before you leave for the airport, put your ID, credit card and boarding pass (if applicable) in an easily accessible part of your wallet or bag. There are two reasons for this: one, by going through this exercise, you make sure that you don't leave home without these crucial items. Two, you don't waste your (and other people's) time fumbling around for them at the moment you need them.

Check the airport parking situation online. Knowing ahead of time where to park, which lots are open and how far they are from the terminal can save you a lot of anxiety on your drive in, as well as keep you safer as you navigate tortuous and almost always poorly marked airport ring roads. Additionally, during peak travel periods, lots fill up quickly, so you will want an alternate parking plan.

When you are ready to board always take inventory of what you will need to do when you get to the front of the security line. Do a quick mental review of everything you are wearing that you will need to remove (such as shoes, jewelry, watch, jacket), and what you have inside your carry-on bag that might need to be taken out (liquids, electronics). When you get to the front of the line, blast through your mental inventory and make it happen. Done well, you can go from fully clad for winter weather, with laptops and iPads in your bag, to a T-shirt, pants and socks, and all your sensitive electronics in their own bins, in seconds.

Using these tips will get you through the airport, on your flight and towards your destination as quickly as possible.

more traveler informaiton tips available at the TSA website:
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HOW TO INVEST THE RIGHT WAY


It is no secret that investors sometimes tie up too much money in stocks, putting themselves at risk of losing a significant portion of their wealth if the market plunges. Then again, other investors place little or no money in stocks, and therefore miss out on excellent opportunities to grow their wealth. Investors should make stocks a part of their portfolios, but the operative word is part. You should only let stocks take up a portion of your money. A disciplined investor also has money in bank accounts, bonds, and other assets that offer growth or income opportunities. Diversification is key to minimizing risk.

Those who trade too often, focus on irrelevant data points, or try to predict the unpredictable are likely to encounter some unpleasant surprises when investing. By keeping it simple and focusing on companies with economic moats, requiring a margin of safety when buying, and investing with a long-term horizon you can greatly enhance your odds of success.

Are you getting into stocks with the expectation that quick riches soon await? Unless you are extremely lucky, you will not double your money in the first year investing in stocks. Such returns generally cannot be achieved unless you take on a great deal of risk by, for instance, buying extensively on margin or taking a flier on a chancy security. At this point, you have crossed the line from investing into speculating.

Though stocks have historically been the highest-return asset class, this still means returns in the 10-12 percent range. These returns have also come with a great deal of volatility. If you don't have the proper expectations for the returns and volatility you will experience when investing in stocks, irrational behavior taking on exorbitant risk in 'get rich quick' strategies, trading too much, swearing off stocks forever because of a short-term loss may ensue.

In the short term, stocks tend to be volatile, bouncing around every which way on the back of Mr. Market's knee-jerk reactions to news as it hits. Trying to predict the market's short-term movements is not only impossible, it's maddening. It is helpful to remember what Benjamin Graham said: In the short run, the market is like a voting machine tallying up which firms are popular and unpopular. But in the long run, the market is like a weighing machine assessing the substance of a company.

Yet all too many investors are still focused on the popularity contests that happen every day, and then grow frustrated as the stocks of their companie which may have sound and growing businesses do not move. Be patient, and keep your focus on a company's fundamental performance. In time, the market will recognize and properly value the cash flows that your businesses produce.

There are many media outlets competing for investors' attention, and most of them center on presenting and justifying daily price movements of various markets. This means lots of pricesstock prices, oil prices, money prices, frozen orange juice concentrate prices accompanied by lots of guesses about why prices changed. Unfortunately, the price changes rarely represent any real change in value. Rather, they merely represent volatility, which is inherent to any open market. Tuning out this noise will not only give you more time, it will help you focus on what's important to your investing success the performance of the companies you own.

Likewise, just as you won't become a better baseball player by just staring at statistical sheets, your investing skills will not improve by only looking at stock prices or charts. Athletes improve by practicing and hitting the gym; investors improve by getting to know more about their companies and the world around them.

Stocks are not merely things to be traded, they represent ownership interests in companies. If you are buying businesses, it makes sense to act like a business owner. This means reading and analyzing financial statements on a regular basis, weighing the competitive strengths of businesses, making predictions about future trends, as well as having conviction and not acting impulsively.

Whether you’re already in stocks or you’re looking to get into stocks, you need to find out about how much money you can afford to invest in stocks. No matter what you hope to accomplish with your stock investing plan, the first step a budding investor should take is figuring out how much you own and how much you owe. To do this, prepare and review your personal balance heet. A balance sheet is simply a list of your assets, your liabilities, and what each item is currently worth so you can arrive at your net worth. Your net worth is total assets minus total liabilities. I know that these terms sound like accounting mumbo jumbo, but knowing your net worth is important to your future financial success, so just do it.

Composing your balance sheet is simple. Pull out a pencil and a piece of paper. For the computer savvy, a spreadsheet software program accomplishes the same task. Gather all your financial documents, such as bank and brokerage statements and other such paperwork you need figures from these documents. Update your balance sheet at least once a year to monitor your financial progress.

A second document to prepare is an income statement. An income statement lists your total income and your total expenses to find out how well you are doing. If your total income is greater than your total expenses, then you have net income. If your total expenses meet or exceed your total income, then that’s not good. You better look into increasing your income or decreasing your expenses. You want to get to the point that you have net income so that you can use that money to fund your stock purchases.

Your personal balance sheet is really no different from balance sheets that giant companies prepare. In fact, the more you find out about your own balance sheet, the easier it is to understand the balance sheet of companies in which you’re seeking to invest. more on investing





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