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8 ways travelers can save time and travel safer

Many people shelved their wanderlust during the pandemic. Now that things are back to normal, it’s time to start exploring life again. If you’re dreaming about a big vacation, you’re not alone.

A study by Expedia says 37% of American travelers are planning international and domestic trips next year. As they say, go big or go home — but no matter where you go, you should prioritize your safety. Tap or click here for five tips to keep you safe while you travel.

If you plan to hit the road next year, prepare to be flexible. Things are still a little shaky, which is why you should do more advanced planning than usual. Luckily, we put together a quick to-do list: Check off each of these to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable vacation.

1. Know what you’re getting into

Before you pack your bags, research your destination. You want to know if you’re entering a highly contagious area or not. You can get a scope of the situation by checking out an official COVID-19 data tracking map.

These maps can help you figure out if you’re entering a potential danger zone. Ever since South Africa identified the Omicron variant, the new strain made headlines and spread like wildfire. NPR reports that 19 U.S. states have detected the omicron variant.

Stay safe by using the CDC’s COVID Data Tracker. This comprehensive tool gives you valuable information on community transmission on the county level.

Once you’ve gotten a handle on the situation, it’s time to follow step two.

2. Back up your data

If you’re taking important devices while on vacation, you need to take precautions. There are many opportunities for you to lose your gadgets, from your Uber ride to the airport to your hotel stays.

Say you use a device during your flight. If you find out later that you left it on the airplane, you could be in big trouble. Calling up the airline might reveal that your device is in another country!

Nowadays, many devices contain the keys to your entire digital world. If you have critical programs like password managers, losing your device could mean no more access to critical accounts. Luckily, there’s a simple way to keep track of your tablets, smartphones, laptops and more.

Just turn on Find My Device on Android devices and Find My on iOS gadgets. Yep, it’s that easy.

Before you head out, here’s one more step to take: Back up your data. We recommend our sponsor, IDrive, because it’s versatile and easy to use. You can back up all your Macs, PCs and mobile devices onto one account.

Having everything all in one place gives you much less to keep track of. Plus, it’s a hassle-free way to get peace of mind. Get 50% off 5TB of cloud backup at when you use promo code Kim at checkout.

3. Create a travel pandemic kit

When a disease is swirling around, everything you touch could be a point of contact. COVID-19 mainly spreads from airborne transmissions. But you can also get it if you touch a surface someone else touched.

That’s why contact tracing has been so prominent in the past year. It’s also why we recommend bringing hand sanitizer along with you. This is TSA-approved:

Of course, your hands can be spotless, but that won’t help if you touch a dirty surface. Make sure to disinfect anything you touch with these disinfecting wipes:

While you’re at it, make sure you go the extra mile to keep your phone clean. If you always have it in your hand and you’re touching surfaces, it could turn into a petri dish for thousands of germs. This phone sanitizer uses UV light to kill 99.9% of bacteria and viruses.

In just a minute, you can surround your phone with UV-C germicidal LEDs. Plus, it’s safe to use: It’s free of chemicals and mercury. Also, it comes with an advanced safety lock, so you aren’t exposed to the UV.

Overall, it’s the perfect way to sanitize and disinfect your phone thoroughly.

Don’t forget the travel essentials

You want to prioritize comfort, after all. Plus, there’s always a risk when you use a pillow from a plane.

While you’re at it, don’t forget to bring your eye masks and earplugs. We also recommend bringing your own travel blanket. Sure, your airline may hand them out … but they’re reusable.

If the person who used the blanket before you had COVID and it wasn’t appropriately sanitized, you could be at risk. Avoid the risk altogether by bringing this:

Most importantly, you’ll need to bring some face masks. Don’t just bring one: You could be in danger if you lose it. Some places have stringent mask policies, which means you might not even be allowed in a store to buy more masks if you lose one.

It’s always good to have a backup. You won’t run out with this pack of 50 masks:

You’ll probably build up an appetite from walking all day. Make sure to bring some TSA-approved snacks on the go. Here are five treats that won’t get you in trouble with airport security.

4. Keep a digital copy of your vaccination card

Pickpocketing is a considerable risk of traveling abroad. If you contact a sticky-fingered stranger, your wallet could disappear. This can spell disaster if that’s where you stored your COVID-19 vaccination card.

Remember that many places require proof of vaccination. This could throw a huge wrench in your travel plans. To protect yourself against this worst-case scenario, make a digital copy of your card.

Protecting your card doesn’t require any fancy equipment. You can just take a photo. Tap or click here for our step-by-step guide to storing your COVID vaccine card on your iPhone or Android.

Aside from just taking a picture, you can also take a few special steps to store your card on your Android. Just do this:

Follow these steps on your Android

Your healthcare provider should have sent you a text, email, app or website link. Click on whatever was sent to you to find your COVID-19 vaccination or test information.

Once you find it, tap Save to phone. You may be asked to save with Chrome or Google Pay. Don’t save to Chrome. Even if you don’t have the Google Pay app, select Google Pay.

Then, hit Continue. You can add an icon to your home screen. This displays the basic information about you and your COVID-19 vaccination test.

Do this on an Apple Wallet

When you get your vaccination, your COVID-19 vaccination or test provider may have given you a downloadable health record. Add this to the Health app for easy, on-the-go access.

  • On your iPhone or iPod touch, tap the download link.
  • To add your record to both the Health app and Wallet app, tap Add to Wallet & Health.
  • Tap Done.

Don’t worry if you weren’t told about a downloadable health record. There are a few other ways to get this done. Tap or click here for more ways to add your card to your Apple Wallet.

Don’t forget this

Also, if you have to take your physical copy with you, get a protector for it. It’s far too easy for our delicate cards to bend or tear. Luckily, protection can be pretty cheap.

These durable protectors are resistant to wear and corrosion. Even if you’re traveling to a rainy city, don’t worry: The resealable zipper keeps your card as dry as a bone. Tap or click here for more information on how holders keep your COVID vaccine card safe.

5. Keep tabs of your luggage

There’s nothing worse than finding out you left your luggage behind. It has everything you need, from glasses and toothbrushes to life-saving medication. If you find it’s completely gone, you’ll have to buy everything on the go.

Avoid this enormous expense by tossing a Bluetooth tracker into your luggage. This way, you’ll know wherever it is, no matter how far away you are. We recommend going with Apple AirTags since you aren’t limited by distance.

Since they’re so helpful, AirTags are often out of stock. Luckily, there are many alternative brands you can check out, like Tile trackers.

If you aren’t sure which tracker to get, we’ve got you covered. We compared the two most popular options on the market so you can better decide which one works best for you. Tap or click here to find out how Tile trackers and new AirTags are different.

6. Don’t sync your phone with a rental car

There are many reasons why you might be tempted to do this. Maybe you want to play music from Spotify or have a phone call while you’re driving. This convenience comes with a big payoff, though: your privacy.

Your contacts, call logs and even text history are transferred over to the car. This means the manufacturer could potentially see your old messages and find some pretty embarrassing stuff. Locations that you visit could also be discovered.

Third parties can also connect to your car, from manufacturers to repairmen, who may need to dig through data to fix a problem. Oh, and don’t forget about insurance companies or even law enforcement. Sometimes officers want to go through a suspect’s phone — and if the smartphone is locked, they can use car records as a workaround.

Maybe you’re reading this and thinking, “I have nothing to hide. Connecting my phone to a rental car is way too convenient to give up.” That’s understandable. Just follow these steps to stay safe.

So, you connected your phone to a rental car. Now what?

Before you return the rental car, make sure you disconnect your phone. Otherwise, the next person who rents the vehicle may be able to see your phone listed on the “Connected devices” menu.

Don’t assume the car rental companies will remove your data from their car. They may overlook it in favor of more pressing tasks.

Safeguard your data by deleting your phone from the car’s menu. Also, don’t let the vehicle access your contacts list.

When you first pair your device to an infotainment system, you’ll usually see a pop-up box asking for access to your contacts. Say no, so it can’t collect call information and messages. Luckily, you can still play music and make hands-free calls when driving.

7. Avoid public Wi-Fi

This is a good rule of thumb, even when you aren’t traveling. When you’re at the airport or anywhere else, don’t connect your devices to public Wi-Fi. It’s unencrypted, insecure and prone to security issues.

Think of it this way: Public Wi-Fi is open to anyone. That includes criminals.

Hackers will often use public Wi-Fi to find new targets. They can invade any device, including laptops, tablets and smartphones. Tap or click here to ditch shady public Wi-Fi and safely connect to the internet.

If you have no choice but to connect to public Wi-Fi, you must protect yourself by using a VPN that you can trust. We recommend our sponsor, ExpressVPN.

From traveling across the globe to just going down the street to your favorite coffee shop, your private data is secured and protected with ExpressVPN.

Get the only VPN service that Kim uses and trusts on all your digital devices today. Get three months free when you sign up for one year at

8. Don’t swipe that card

Earlier, we went over how important it is to minimize contact. This also applies when you’re paying for food, hotels, gifts, tickets and more. Luckily, there are ways you can avoid having to swipe your card and press buttons.

For instance, you can use Apple Pay, Shop Pay, Venmo and Zelle. They’re like middlemen that stand between you and the merchant. One of the most popular options is PayPal.

Here’s how it works

Before heading out on a trip, connect your bank account to this site. Now you can transfer money in a few clicks. This also keeps your credit card information private.

Plus, it helps you combat fraud. Since your money goes through PayPal before landing in the merchant’s pocket, you can file a dispute through PayPal to get your money back. Tap or click here for five safe ways to pay without whipping out your credit card.

By clicking our links, you’re supporting our research. As an Amazon Associate, we earn a small commission from qualifying purchases. Recommendations are not part of any business incentives.

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