Current Events and Blog

21Apr 2019

School kids: This assignment can pay rewards | Louisiana Outdoors – The Advocate


Cash awards are handed out every year to the top three in each of the three categories in the Youth Journalism Contest, sponsored by the Louisiana members of Safari Club International and the Louisiana Outdoor Writers Association.

There are two age-group writing categories, ages 7-13 in Junior Essay and ages 14-18 in Senior Essay and a photography contest for ages 7-18. Essays should be 300-1,000 words, typed, double-spaced, original, unpublished writings involving a personal outdoors experience. Submitted photos must be original, unpublished black-and-white or color, 4×6, 5×7 or 8×10 inches, and center-mounted on an 8×10 board. Only one essay and photograph will be accepted for each youngster.

Essays can be emailed: jmacaluso@theadvocate.com, and photos can be mailed to Joe Macaluso, Advocate Outdoors, P.O. Box 588, Baton Rouge, LA 70821. ATTN: LOWA.

Submissions must have name, age, school, home address, home telephone number and, where possible, email address attached at the top of the essay or photo.

Young fishers: another LOWA contest is for young anglers. One boy and one girl will receive a Louisiana lifetime fishing license if their writing and companion photo are judged tops in the Louisiana Youth Angler of the Year contest.

LOWA president Wendy Billiot chairs the contest and said youngsters need to write an essay about a memorable Louisiana fishing trip. “You may include where you went, who you were with, what kind of bait you used, what kind of fishing you were doing, and what you learned,” she said, and send along a photo of the adventure.

“Essays will be judged for the heart of the story, not just on the writing style or grammar and spelling,” Billiot said, adding youngsters must be in grades 9-12 and a Louisiana resident.

The applications website: https://ldwf.wufoo.com/forms/youth-angler-2019.

Both the Youth Journalism and Youth Anglers have June 30 deadlines, but don’t wait until summer vacation. Work on these contests while you have a couple of days off this week or on a school weekend.

Winners will be contacted and awards will be announced during the LOWA’s annual conference and awards banquet in August.

Public hearing

Wildlife and Fisheries’ Wildlife Division has set the final public hearing on dates, bag limits and other rules and regulations for the 2019-2020 hunting seasons at 10 a.m. Monday at the Joe Herring Room at LDWF headquarters on Quail Drive in Baton Rouge.

The full notice of the proposed seasons is available on the LDWF’s website: wlf.louisiana.gov/action-items.

On triggerfish

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council send out a notice last week about needing “a better understanding of gray triggerfish in the Gulf of Mexico,” and is asking fishermen and divers about “trends or ‘strange things’ scientists and managers may need to know.”

Most recreational offshore fishermen know gray triggerfish season closed May 11 across the Gulf — Louisiana waters, too — and federal fisheries biologists will undertake a stock assessment of the species this year.

The oddly worded release stated, “the Council would like to know if you have noticed anything ‘fishy’ about gray triggerfish, or gray triggerfish fishing, in recent years. The information provided will help inform scientists and managers as they formulate a current understanding of the gray triggerfish stock.”

If you want to add your two cents, go to the GMFMC’s website: gulfcouncil.org, then find the topic “Something’s Fishy with Gray Triggerfish” questionnaire. The deadline for submitting this form is May 9.

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21Apr 2019

How to Travel Without Leaving a Trace – The New York Times


Niagara Falls and its surrounding parks see millions of visitors a year, and all that foot traffic results in a lot of trash — 832 metric tons each year from the Canadian areas alone. Still, park sanitation workers were surprised to find a piano, broken into pieces, among the items left in the garbage one day.

“People dispose of all kinds of things,” said Steve Barnhart, the senior director for parks, environment, and culture at the Niagara Falls Parks Commission in Ontario. “But that was really unusual.”

Although odd things occasionally surface at tourist hot spots, the bulk of the waste in the garbage cans comes from much more common, repeat offenders. Here, in time for Earth Day, are some items that major tourist destinations often find tossed out by travelers — and some ways that you can avoid adding to all that rubbish along your own journey.

Travelers often use disposable items as conveniences that they can simply toss afterward. But when a site hosts millions of visitors and hauls out hundreds of tons of trash a year, as many popular tourist destinations do, all those disposable items add up fast in ways that are quickly apparent on the ground.

Sophie Grange, a spokeswoman for the Louvre, listed maps and entrance tickets as some of the most common items the museum sees in the 1,200 tons of waste it carts out a year. The museum does recycle paper, but for visitors who are carrying a smartphone, paperless alternatives can be an even better option.

“The best way to reduce waste is to not produce any,” Ms. Grange said in an email. Instead she suggests that visitors who want to reduce their trash footprint download e-tickets and use the museum’s app or refer to posted signs for guidance on directions.

In addition to providing options for visitors to skip the printouts, she said the museum also tries to find ways to keep its own printed materials out of the landfill too. For instance, it sends promotional banners for temporary exhibits to a company that turns them into bags; the banners even go to archaeological schools for use as coverings to protect dig sites.

Although tickets and maps for many tourist destinations are offered electronically, some travelers prefer to keep their tech to a minimum or may be traveling in areas where dicey connections and power failures are common. If paperless travel isn’t practical for you, the best thing to do is to have a place ready to hold your papers so that you’re not leaving a trail of them behind as you move. You can use a travel journal or notebook (Wirecutter recommends the Traveler’s Notebook), customized with an inset folder, to keep loose papers together until you can sort through them at home.

Disposable cups, bags, and utensils may be the first kinds of items that spring to mind when you’re thinking about how to reduce waste. But the packaging your gear and supplies come in can also be just as big of a problem. And when you’re on the road, you may find that places to dispose of that packaging are much more limited than they are at home.

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21Apr 2019

Credit card ‘travel hacking': Wharton MBAs offer tips to get the most out of your rewards in 2019 – Philly.com


The first — cash back — is not the best strategy, Cohen said. Chase Ultimate Rewards points, for example, are worth $0.01 per point, or 100,000 points for $1,000 in cash. But the points are worth more if you use them to book trips through Chase or American Express’ online travel portals, Cohen said. Those Chase Ultimate Rewards points are worth $0.015 per point when redeemed this way.

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20Apr 2019

Wyndham Launches New Benefits for Rewards Members – NerdWallet


Opportunities to redeem points at flat rates for award travel are dwindling. In early April, Wyndham Rewards switched to an award category system, much like Marriott Bonvoy and Hilton Honors, getting rid of its flat 15,000-point-per-night price for a free stay. Free stays at Wyndham properties now vary from 7,500 to 30,000 points per night, meaning some hotels may require fewer or more points than before to redeem a free night.

The new awards categories went live as several new benefits for Wyndham Rewards members were unveiled, including the addition of more than 900 La Quinta hotels to the catalog, new benefits for military members and more ways to earn points through online shopping and gas purchases.

Here’s what you need to know about the changes.

New award categories

Wyndham now has three award categories that determine how many points you need to redeem a free night. Almost 3,000 hotels have moved down to Category 1, meaning it takes 7,500 points to get a free night at a Category 1 designated properties. Expect to see brands like Days Inn and Super 8 among these properties.

Meanwhile, almost 200 hotels have moved up to Category 3, which requires double the previous number of points needed for a stay. For some hotels, including Caesars Palace and Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, you will have to spend 30,000 points per night. This is also the case with several La Quinta by Wyndham locations.

The vast majority of properties will not require any more or fewer points than before. You can still score free nights at 15,000 points at Wyndham Grand hotel international locations and most of the higher-end Wyndham Vacation Resorts in the U.S. Hot destinations like Hawaii and Florida still have a lot of options at the Category 2 level, as well.

Pay for award stays with a combination of points and cash

To help members earn award stays faster, Wyndham Rewards has introduced a new way to pay for award stays with fewer points if you’re willing to throw in some cash. The go fast redemption option follows the same categories as the point-based go free redemption option.

The cash contribution varies based on the hotel, but it can range from about $35 to more than $200. When you book a go fast award, the cash portion will still be eligible to earn 10 points per dollar (excluding taxes, incidentals and other fees).

Use rewards at La Quinta hotels

Wyndham acquired La Quinta Inns & Suites in 2018, and now those hotels are available for loyalty members to book with Wyndham Rewards points. There are more than 900 hotels added to the roster, including locations in cities like Miami, Seattle and Toronto.

» Learn more: Wyndham Rewards matches status with La Quinta Returns

New benefits for military members

Under the latest changes, military members now earn automatic Gold level membership and 1,000 bonus points on their first qualifying night. Gold level membership comes with perks like late checkout and a 10% point bonus on qualifying stays. All of these perks are in addition to some benefits already available to military members, whether or not they are Wyndham Rewards members. Service members have access to existing discounts of 12% or more off the best available rate at participating Wyndham Rewards hotels.

Earn points through online shopping and gas purchases

Wyndham Rewards also announced new partnerships that allow members to earn points outside of hotel purchases. Loyalty program members can now earn points through the Wyndham Rewards online shopping portal at retailers like Target, Apple and Home Depot. Gas purchases and select in-store purchases at Marathon gas stations can also help Wyndham Rewards members earn extra points. In the coming weeks, members will be able to earn and redeem points with Viator tours and experiences and DoorDash food delivery.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are our picks for the best travel credit cards of 2019, including those best for:

Planning a trip? Check out these articles for more inspiration and advice:
Which award-winning hotels give you the best value?
NerdWallet’s top travel credit cards
Snag these hotel loyalty perks, even if you’re disloyal

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20Apr 2019

If You're Traveling Somewhere, You Might Need This Before You Go – Forbes


The soaring cost of medical care in the United States has created an emerging cottage industry for visitors insurance. Whether you’re traveling to America — or to any country with high healthcare costs — you might need this relatively new type of coverage.

The average American spends $10,348 per year on healthcare, according to the latest numbers from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. That’s $3.3 trillion a year, or about 18% of the Gross Domestic Product. Only Switzerland and Norway come close to that kind of spending.

Understandably, visitors to the United States are shocked when they visit a doctor or hospital. A visit to the emergency room could push them into bankruptcy.

Getty

Getty

“Simply put, visitors insurance is another name for travel medical insurance,” says Rajeev Shrivastava, CEO of VisitorsCoverage, an Insurtech company that sells travel insurance. “The term is most commonly used for visitors traveling to the United States who need medical coverage in the event of a medical emergency.”

But the term “visitors insurance” can also apply more generally to anyone traveling abroad. So if you’re headed to Europe this summer, you might be asking yourself what visitors insurance is and whether you need it. And if you do, where should you buy your coverage?

The two types of visitors coverage

“Visitors insurance typically includes travel medical plans which focus on protection for medical expenses that could occur while traveling in the U.S, due to the fact that medical care in the U.S. is often expensive compared to other countries throughout the world,” explains Justin Tysdal, CEO of Seven Corners, a travel insurance site that sells visitors insurance.

Visitors coverage comes in two flavors. The first is scheduled benefit plan, which typically costs less up front but requires that you absorb more of the medical expense cost later if you need to claim. A scheduled benefit plan places a cap on for each service you may need.

“For example, if you were charged $100 for a physician visit, and the plan contained a $65 limit per visit, then the most the plan would pay is $65, and you would be responsible for the remaining $35 if you had already met your deductible and paid your coinsurance if applicable,” explains Tysdal.

The second type of visitors coverage is the comprehensive plan, which doesn’t contain fixed payment limits for each type of medical treatment. Instead, you select a medical maximum amount of coverage, and any covered expenses are paid out of that amount after you have paid your deductible and any coinsurance. Many comprehensive plans have a provider network that travelers can use to locate doctors and medical facilities close to their location. That’s another reason comprehensive plans are becoming more popular.

By the way, if you’re visiting the U.S. from abroad and considering a comprehensive plan, you need to select the option for travel including the United States when you request a quote. Pricing is typically a little higher for coverage in the U.S. than outside the country. You don’t need visitors insurance if you live in the United States and are traveling domestically.

Do you need visitors insurance?

If you think you don’t need visitors insurance, think again. As I noted earlier, the term “visitors insurance” doesn’t just apply to international visitors coming to America. It’s for anyone making an international trip. In other words, if you’re headed somewhere out of the country for vacation, maybe you should consider visitors insurance.

“Visitors insurance is always recommended for international travel,” says Shrivastava of VisitorsCoverage.com.

Indeed, some countries such as Cuba and the Schengen region — the 26 European states that have officially abolished all passport and all other types of border control at their borders — require certain citizens to have a visitors insurance policy to gain entry.

So how do you know if you need visitors insurance?

    • Just in case. When you are traveling to another country, there are always uncertainties. You’ll want to be protected against any unforeseen medical emergencies that may occur during your travels.
    • If your trip needs to be insured. Just as every traveler is unique, so is every international trip. It is important to research your destination before you travel and take into account any risks that may be associated with the location or your planned activities while you are abroad.
    • When you’re visiting a country where medical costs are high. America has some of the highest medical costs in the world, so visitors to the U.S. would want to make sure their policy included a high policy maximum. VisitorsCoverage.com recommends coverage of as much as $2 million or more. But if you are traveling to a country where medical costs aren’t as high, you likely won’t need as high a policy maximum.
    • U.S. citizens on Medicare. With very few exceptions, Medicare provides zero coverage outside the U.S.

Run your risk assessment. For example, if you’re traveling to Africa for a safari, there are health risks such as malaria. Safaris often take place in remote areas, so you may need coverage for medical evacuation. If you’re participating in a high-risk activity, you may need extra coverage in case you’re injured. That can all add up to the need for visitors coverage.

Where to buy visitors insurance

You can buy visitors insurance from several reputable sources. They include:

Directly from a specialist. You can purchase a policy directly from companies such as VisitorsCoverage, which specializes in selling policies to U.S. immigrants and visitors. Other visitors insurance companies include <a href="https://www.gig.com%3C/a" target="_self" data-ga-track="InternalLink://www.gig.comG1G, INF Visitor Care, and InsuBuy.

By shopping on an insurance site. Travel insurance sites such as Seven Corners and Squaremouth sell a variety of policies, both for visitors to the U.S. and for Americans going overseas.

Through your travel agent. A trusted travel advisor is always a good person to consult before a trip. Often agents know the best policies and can advise you on what kinds of coverage you need — and don’t need. To find a good agent, check out the agent finder on the American Society of Travel Advisors’ site.

But do you really need visitors coverage?

Whether you’re headed to the United States or leaving, you might still be wondering whether visitors insurance is right for you. Maybe you checked out one of the sites and thought the price of coverage was too high. Or maybe you read the list of reasons for buying insurance and said to yourself, “I’ll never happen to me.”

My consumer advocacy organization, which specializes in helping travelers, receives hundreds of requests a week from travelers, many of whom fell ill while they were abroad. In about 90 percent of those cases, a reliable travel insurance policy could have helped — and may, as a matter of fact, have eliminated the problem entirely.

Travel insurance and visitors coverage is far from perfect. Not every claim is honored by an insurance company. Also, many policies exclude pre-existing medical conditions, pregnancy, childbirth, and preventive care, among other things. You have to read all the fine print in your policy to make sure you’re covered.

But if you need to ask the question, “Do I need visitors coverage?” the answer is probably “yes.”

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20Apr 2019

Venmo’s Latest Effort to Turn a Profit: Credit Cards – The Wall Street Journal


Venmo is close to selecting Synchrony Financial as its credit-card issuer and is hoping to announce the card this year, a person familiar with the plans says.


Photo:

Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News

Venmo’s latest gambit to profit off its massive but still-not-lucrative user base involves a decidedly old-school idea: credit cards.

Executives at the digital payments company have been meeting with banks since late last year to discuss issuing a Venmo-branded credit card, people familiar with the matter said. The company, owned by

PayPal Holdings
Inc.,


PYPL -1.33%

is close to selecting

Synchrony Financial


SYF 0.30%

as its credit-card issuer and is hoping to announce the card this year, one of the people said.

Rewards and other potential features of the planned card are still being discussed, the people said.

Venmo, which offers a mobile money-transfer app, is the latest technology company to explore entering the credit-card business as a way to boost revenue and consumer engagement. Companies such as PayPal, once considered a competitor to card networks and banks, are increasingly joining with them instead.

Venmo is one of the relatively few financial apps to earn widespread adoption—to the point where its brand name is used as a verb. More than 27 million users are expected to make a Venmo payment from their smartphones in 2019, according to research firm eMarketer.

Despite its popularity, Venmo has been bleeding money for years. Most Venmo payments consist of money transfers between two people, transactions for which the company absorbs processing costs that it doesn’t typically pass on to customers. This year the money-transfer business is expected to report an estimated operating loss of $394 million, according to analysts at

Nomura Holdings
Inc.

In recent years, under PayPal Chief Executive Dan Schulman, Venmo has introduced a suite of new features designed to boost revenue. Users now can pay a 1% fee to move money instantly from their Venmo balances to their bank accounts. Millions of online businesses and some bricks-and-mortar merchants pay Venmo a fee to accept it as a payment method. Last year, Venmo started offering debit cards in a partnership with

Mastercard
Inc.

and a separate bank.

Heading into 2019, those efforts were on pace to generate annual revenue exceeding $200 million, Mr. Schulman told analysts on a January conference call. But Venmo isn’t expected to break even for at least several quarters, Chief Financial Officer John Rainey said on the same call.

A Venmo credit card could help push Venmo into the black and help achieve a broader PayPal goal of increasing its market share at offline retailers.

Venmo is entering a crowded market as more technology companies develop credit cards to incentivize spending.

Apple
Inc.

is working with

Goldman Sachs Group
Inc.

to roll out a new line of credit cards later this year that would sync with users’ iPhones.

American Express
Co.

recently began issuing

Amazon.com
Inc.

credit cards for small businesses.

Airlines and other vendors that already offer credit cards are finding themselves competing for consumers who prefer using bank-labeled, general-purpose credit cards with generous rewards. Growth in issuance of both general-purpose and co-branded credit cards in the U.S. has slowed since 2017, according to Mercator Advisory Group.

With its credit card, Venmo hopes to squeeze more revenue from the many young consumers who use only its free service. Roughly one in five consumers between ages 20 and 24 surveyed by 451 Research last year said they had made a Venmo payment.

The Venmo discussions are separate from deals PayPal has already negotiated with Synchrony, which has offered PayPal credit cards since 2004. Last July, Synchrony acquired $7.6 billion of PayPal Credit loan balances made to finance online purchases.

Synchrony has added more digital card partners in recent years. The company—the largest U.S. store-credit-card issuer—counted Toys “R” Us as a partner until the retailer filed for bankruptcy, and lists JCPenney as one of its five largest retail-card partners.

Synchrony was dealt a major blow last year when

Walmart
Inc.,

one of its largest retail partners for roughly two decades, told Synchrony that

Capital One Financial
Corp.

would become its new credit-card issuer.

Write to Peter Rudegeair at Peter.Rudegeair@wsj.com and AnnaMaria Andriotis at annamaria.andriotis@wsj.com

Share Your Thoughts

Every few months a new credit card is announced. What do you look for when shopping for a credit card? Join the conversation below.

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20Apr 2019

Travel rewards: Don't let these 5 myths cost you money – Asbury Park Press


Twenty-four years ago, I knew so little about travel rewards that I took an around-the-world trip without signing up for a single frequent traveler program. Those lost points and miles still haunt me.

Fast forward to last summer, when our family stayed two nights at a luxury hotel in Venice, Italy. Our room would have cost an eye-popping €1,500, or about $1,700, per night. Thanks to the points I’d accumulated using a travel rewards credit card, this over-the-top stay was free.

There’s definitely a learning curve involved when it comes to travel rewards, but delaying your education can be costly if you love to travel. For example, many people misunderstand how much points are worth, either over- or underestimating how much free travel they can get, according to a recent NerdWallet survey.

People also make the mistake of carrying balances on those cards (the rewards won’t make up for the high cost of paying interest), and far too many people earn rewards that they don’t redeem, resulting in billions of dollars of potential value left untouched.

More: Cheap travel: Find places to stay for next to nothing

More: Tips to make air travel easier and more comfortable

Don’t let any of these myths prevent you from making the most of available travel rewards:

Myth 1: Travel rewards credit cards have high annual fees

Some travel rewards cards have no annual fee. Many charge somewhere in the neighborhood of $95 a year. Usually that fee can be offset by using the cards’ perks: free checked bags for airline-branded cards, for example, or a free night’s stay every year for hotel-branded cards. Even the high-end cards with annual fees of $450 and up typically offer airport lounge access, credits to offset travel fees, and higher rewards rates that can more than pay for the card if you’re the right user.

Myth 2: Travel rewards are hard to redeem

Finding free or upgraded airline flights can be a challenge, especially for people who don’t plan well ahead. The best time to book a rewards flight is typically 9 to 12 months in advance, when the airlines first make such seats available. (It also pays to check back frequently, since carriers also may add more awards seats depending on how the flights are filling up.)

Hotel rewards are easier to book since occupancy rates are generally lower. If you want even more flexibility, consider a general travel rewards card that allows you to redeem credits for travel purchases or to transfer your points to a variety of frequent traveler programs.

More: Travel: Taking a trip through New England

More: Toms River business will save you money on your dream vacation

Myth 3: It’s best to focus on one frequent traveler program

You may want to concentrate on earning rewards in a single frequent traveler program if you need a lot of points for a special trip. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore other programs.

If you love to travel, it’s unlikely you do so with only one airline or hotel chain. Plus, spreading your loyalty around means you can take advantage of specials and promotions that help you earn more points or make points more valuable to redeem. Travel programs also often have dynamic pricing, which means the value of rewards can vary. For example, one hotel chain could have lousy redemption options in a city, while another offers a much better deal.

Then there’s the issue of devaluation. Programs occasionally devalue their points and miles, meaning it takes more of them to earn the same reward. But they tend to do so at different times. If your rewards aren’t concentrated in one frequent traveler program, you won’t risk having them all devalued at once.

Myth 4: Travel rewards cards require excellent credit

Travel rewards cards typically require good credit, which is generally defined as a credit score of 690 and above on a 300-to-850 scale. Some require scores of 720 and above. If your scores aren’t quite there yet, look for a card that offers cash-back rewards and use those for travel.

Myth 5: Travel rewards aren’t worth the effort

Travel rewards programs aren’t always intuitive, and some of us invest a fair amount of time trying to squeeze the absolute maximum value out of every point.

But you don’t have to be an extreme rewards hacker to benefit. It doesn’t take much effort to sign up for hotel or airline frequent traveler programs, or to use a general travel rewards credit card for the spending you were going to do anyway. Sign up for the programs’ email newsletters, which can alert you to special deals.

Then make a point to start cashing in those rewards, and you may see what all the fuss is about.

This column was provided to The Associated Press by the personal finance website NerdWallet.

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20Apr 2019

14 new products that make travel way more comfortable – TODAY


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April 19, 2019, 9:19 PM GMT / Source: TODAY

By Aly Walansky

At TODAY we take care to recommend items we hope you’ll enjoy! Just so you know, TODAY may get a small share of the revenue.

Using interviews with specialists, online reviews and personal experience, TODAY editors, writers and experts take care to recommend items we really like and hope you’ll enjoy! TODAY does have affiliate relationships with various online retailers. So, while every product is independently selected, if you buy something through our links, we may get a small share of the revenue.

Traveling for work sound exciting and exotic, but it can also be stressful and exhausting.

I have been working as a food and travel writer for well over a decade, and that means flying a few times a month. These trips are often early mornings and late nights, with each hour tightly scheduled and dozens of emails waiting to be answered when I get back to my hotel room at the end of the night.

Those early morning flights and tight layovers, all while trying to get writing done while in air, can take a toll but the right tools have often made all the difference. That’s why I’m selective about what I pack in my carry-on.

Here are some favorites that come in handy whether you’re traveling for work or for pleasure.

  • 1. Cariloha Bamboo Neck Pillow, $40, Cariloha

Ever try to sleep on a plane for a few hours and wake up everything hurting? Those seats are just not made for comfort, but this neck pillow made of bamboo charcoal memory foam has really been helpful. Plus, since it’s made of bamboo it’ll keep you cool throughout your flight (or road trip). The removable cover is machine washable too.

  • 2. Hari Mari Lakes Flip Flops, $75, Amazon

Ever try to go through TSA with those skinny tall boots? It’s a nightmare. Whether just starting your journey or at the end of a long day of meetings, a comfortable pair of flip flops are the ultimate in easy relaxation.

  • 3. Peak Design Packing Cubes, $40, Amazon

Whether avoiding airline baggage fees or just trying to travel light, an important aspect of frequent travel is learning to be a smarter packer. Packing cubes are compressible, easy to access and instantly dividable. These cubes even have tear-away zippers and an internal divider to separate clean and dirty clothes, with each compartment able to expand or contract based on its contents.

  • 4. YETI Rambler 18 oz, $30, Amazon

Buying bottles of water at the airport is expensive. Same goes for amusement parks and hotels. Taking your own bottle along that you can refill along the way will save tons of cash, and also keep you away from all that unnecessary plastic waste. This bottle is made of double-wall vacuum insulated stainless steel and it’s built to last with a leakproof cap. It keeps cold drinks cold and hot drinks hot — meaning it’ll be great for keeping coffee hot on those long road trips, too!

Air travel can be very drying, and to keep lips hydrated at all altitudes, this Donell Lip Saver restores chapped and dehydrated lips while protecting your skin against damaging free radicals. It also contains SPF 15 and Vitamin E.

  • 6. Ursa Major Essential Face Wipes, $24, Amazon

Makeup cleansing wipes are essential for refreshing after a long flight or an endless day of appointments. These 4-in-1 Essential Face Tonic Wipes are individually wrapped face wipes that remove excess oil and impurities without creating an imbalance in the skin’s pH level or stripping moisture. They are also great for exfoliating dead skin cells and unclogging pores (3% natural AHA/BHA complex).

  • 7. Calm app subscription, $60/year, Calm

Traveling is very stressful, and it’s important to take the relaxation and calm from anywhere possible. This contains daily meditations, sleep stories, soothing music tracks, master classes and more to help you center yourself during the day or fall asleep at night. It’s an easy way to calm down, right from your pocket.

  • 8. Decibullz Custom Molded Ear Phones, $26, Decibullz

Ear phones are not all created equal and the right shape and size can have a big impact on comfort level during wear. Decibullz makes a DIY moldable pair of earphones. Basically, it’s like molding a mouth guard — you place the earbuds in warm water and then mold them perfectly to the shape of your ear. The result: An extremely comfortable, perfect fitting, low-profile earplug that will never hurt, never fall out and provide superior noise isolation.

  • 8. Clorox Disinfecting Wipes On the Go, $3, Walmart

Germs are everywhere and it’s very easy to get sick when traveling. I use these wipes when I first get on a plane, in an Uber, even in hotel rooms (those remote controls are filthy!). This is especially important during flu season, which peaks between December and February (and is still likely to continue for several weeks).

  • 10. CHI Escape Cordless Styling Iron, $100, Amazon

A cordless styling iron is great to travel with, or even throw in your gym bag. You can charge it just like a cell phone and do your hair literally anywhere, even in an airplane bathroom!

  • 11. Drybar Mini Detox Dry Shampoo, $13, Sephora

No one wants to have to wash and dry their hair at the end of a long day, in a cramped hotel bathroom. Dry shampoo is always in my bag when I travel. It’s super helpful to freshen up a blowout via a super-absorbent formula that eliminates oils and impurities, and adds some volume for those all-important travel selfies.

  • 12. Goal Zero’s Sherpa 100AC, $300, Amazon

When travel is a part of your job, being able to work from anywhere becomes essential. But even the most diligent of us are at the mercy of a power source. This portable power bank is designed to power items like laptops, tablets, DSLR cameras and phone while working on-the-go or traveling. It’s great because it is super lightweight (only weighs two pounds), is airline approved and can even wirelessly charge smartphones. It is also easily rechargeable via wall outlet or solar panel.

  • 13. Skyroam Solis Mobile Wifi Hotspot, $150, Amazon

The most stressful aspect of travel for me is not being connected, and hotel Wi-Fi can be expensive and unreliable. This super fast global hotspot has saved my day many times over, with an embedded power bank, 16+ hours of battery life, and the ability to connect multiple gadgets at once so I can stay on top of email as I go (but also, of course, Instagram!).

  • 14. Sensacalm Weighted Eye Mask, $30, SensaCalm

Sleeping while traveling isn’t very easy for me, no matter how many years I’ve been at it. Whether it’s a transatlantic red-eye, or catching some shut eye on a long train or bus ride between cities, sometimes the best path toward sleep is blocking out your surroundings. Made with soothing satin and comfortable cuddle fleece, this lightly weighted sleep mask is cozy and breathable, making it a lot easier to get some rest even in the least conducive settings.

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20Apr 2019

Can credit card companies sustain their rewards programs? – Marketplace.org


Those credit card rewards American Express is using to entice customers seems to be paying off for now.

American Express recently released its first-quarter earnings report, revealing its biggest-single expense was its card member rewards, which rose 4% from the same period last year to $2.45 billion. However, that helped boost customer spending 4% from a year ago. 

It also earned $2.01 per share (beating the $2 per share that Wall Street expected), while raking in $10.36 billion in revenue (it was short of the $10.49 billion that analysts expected, but almost 7% higher year over year). 

“It’s kind of a blessing and a curse for them, that they get more people to use the card, but they’ve got to pay more to incentivize you,” said Ted Rossman, industry analyst at CreditCards.com. 

Can the rewards last, though? 

“I think it’s clear that there’s a huge demand among consumers to leverage credit card rewards as much as possible,” said Sarah Chenven, chief operating and strategy officer at Credit Builders Alliance. 

In the grand scheme of things, Rossman said he doesn’t think a 4% increase in rewards expenses is a big hit for the company. But he said there is a shift in the industry where credit card issuers are getting tired of the rewards arms race to attract new customers. 

The major credit card issuers had been ratcheting up the stakes over the past several years to the excitement of credit card customers. Chase released its Sapphire Reserve credit card back in 2016, which initially came with a 100,000-point sign-up bonus worth up to $1,500 in free travel (it’s now dropped to 50,000 points, equivalent to $750) and a $300 annual travel credit, among other perks. 

A worried American Express then changed up its Platinum Card, providing more membership rewards, while Bank of America also released its own premium card. 

“What we’ve noticed in the couple of years since is that it’s really not sustainable. Especially as we a crossed here into 2019, we started to see a lot of companies pulling back on the mega sign-up bonus and shifting more into other kinds of rewards,” Rossman said. “That can be gamed. A lot of people were spending just enough to get the bonus.” 

Instead of those sign-up bonuses, Rossman said credit card companies are moving more toward providing dining rewards. 

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19Apr 2019

Here Are Fortnite's Ruin Discovery Skin Challenges And Their Rewards – Forbes


Fortnite

Epic

Week 8 has finally arrived, and with it, enough challenges so players can finally get their hands on the Ruin skin, the magma knight that has an as-of-yet-unknown role to play in Fortnite lore, but the way he looks implies he may be some sort of agent of the Fire King. Or perhaps even his overlord, I’m not sure.

With Ruin’s arrival, we now have a series of Ruin-specific challenges that ask you to well, ruin things. They are very destruction focused, and fans have theorized Ruin may end up trashing the map somehow by the end of the season. Here are the challenges for him:

  • Destroy Trees (0/50)
  • Destroy Rocks (0/50)
  • Destroy Cars, Trucks or RVs (0/20)
  • Deal damage to opponents’ structures (0/10,000)
  • Outlast opponents (0/1,000)
  • Complete daily challenges (0/5)

Three completions will get you the Ruin back bling:

Fortnite

Epic

All six will get you the Ruin pickaxe, both of which are kind of must-have additions to the character:

Fortnite

Epic

It’s a bit of a bummer we don’t have progressive, unlockable styles like we did with The Prisoner last year and his mini questline, but I suppose this is better than nothing.

Is there a good way to go about completing these? Fatal Fields is not a bad bet for a sparsely populated area that will allow you to farm in relative piece. For cars you are probably going to want to go to Tilted or Retail or Pleasant, given that you need an urban area to find a number of those to break down.

Damage to opponent structures is pretty straightforward, and remember, this counts when you are breaking down any structure that someone has built, even when it was from a fight a long time ago. And outlasting opponents is something that you will do naturally as you can pretty much AFK and outlast 50 people a game. But you know, just play, and you’ll do it too.

Fortnite

Epic

Since Ruin does not have unlockable styles I’m not sure that I can consider him better than The Prisoner last season. What I am curious about is if he will “debut” in some way on the map the way we saw with his predecessor melting in ice, like if he emerges from the weird door thing at Loot Lake, but we have seen no signs of that yet, so I’m not sure. Again, usually these secret legendary skins are very important to Fortnite’s “story,” but what Epic has in store for Ruin has not been made clear yet, and the new Loot Lake stuff is just confusing, because it looks more like alien tech than anything having to do with a volcano knight. But we’ll have to see.

Follow me on TwitterFacebook and Instagram. Read my new sci-fi thriller novel Herokiller, available now in print and online. I also wrote The Earthborn Trilogy.

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