How smart are you about traveling with your cell phone?

You may think you have done everything right for a good vacation or business trip abroad.

Arrangements have all been made and you even have a check list. But if you haven’t worked out a cell phone usage plan you may be headed for trouble. Not only can roaming costs add up fast when traveling out of the United States, but your valuable data can be stolen.

Some travelers call their provider ahead of time for an internet usage package. It typically doesn’t cost much and can be as little as $25. But that is typically for internet use  so you may still have to try to limit talking by phone.

It also doesn’t take into account cell thieves. Because even if your phone isn’t stolen while traveling, it can be hacked by skilled cyber criminals.

Cellhire USA CEO Greg Kraynak shows the phone that can be rented for international travel. when

Cellhire USA CEO Greg Kraynak shows the phone that can be rented for international travel.

One way to leave worry behind is to rent a phone. Cellhire.com has International Prepaid phone packages used by such companies as CBS and ABC when covering international events such as the recent Olympics and FIFa World Cup.

Users rent a phone before they leave that will work in the countries visited so personal cell phones can be left at home. Check International Prepaid Data to learn more. Cellhire consultants help clients choose a device and package deal that relate well to places visited.

“Essentially we urge travelers to leave their personal SmartPhone at home.  This doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your contacts and personal info, it just means that you rent or purchase a “travel phone” and only use a secure network,” said Greg Kraynak, CEO of Cellhire, USA.

“Using public WIFI is a recipe for disaster, ” Kraynak said. “When you access personal data, social media, bank accounts, photos, etc., on a public platform then you are basically offering your data to be intercepted by cyber criminals.

In addition, visit Kaspersky, an internet security and antivirus company, for  several tips on securing information when in airports, hotels, cafes and other public places.

Traveling smart is more than remembering to bring comfortable shoes and electronic chargers.

Tips for fun fall color drives

Deep reds are already tipping the tops of some trees. Drops of crimson sprinkle others. Gold leaves are beginning to line parks and parkways. Enjoy the local scenery, however, to feed that inner urge for a vista of color look for state and national forests nearby and in neighboring states.  But before packing the car and heading out check the following five tips to make the trip fun, not frustrating.

A state park in Door County glistens with gold

A state park in Door County glistens with gold

1.Don’t use your neighborhood color changes as the definitive guide. Colors in states or area of your state to the north and west may be in full fall color palette or just beginning to change south or east. In the Midwest visit these state information sites: Illinois, IndianaMichiganMinnesota and Wisconsin.

2. Take advantage of local Visitors Bureaus to find accommodations. As an example, Door County in northeastern Wisconsin, and Traverse City in northern Michigan (below the Upper Peninsula) and Brown County (Bloomington and Nashville) in central Indiana keep tabs on what is available and know price points and type.

3. A GPS works some places but not all so stop at the area’s Information Center for maps, brochures and suggestions.

4. Because you are driving, not flying, throw those extra boots, hiking shoes, jackets, sun protector hats and sprays, water bottles, first-aid kits and backpacks into the car.

Bright reds dot a peninsula road near Traverse City

Bright reds dot a peninsula road near Traverse City

5. Don’t forget chargers for phones, ipads, cameras or whatever other electronics you take everywhere. Also check your accommodations before you leave, they already have enough chargers from previous visitors.

From crimson and copper to delicate pinks and sherbert oranges, colorful leaves surprise drivers around every corner in the upper Midwest. Just get in the car and go.

Photos by Jodie Jacobs

Visit the Antiques Roadshow online or in person

Antiques Roadshow Chicago visitors wait near the appropriate table to see an appraisal expert.

Antiques Roadshow Chicago visitors wait near the appropriate table to see an appraisal expert.

I recently had the good fortune to cover the Antiques Roadshow when it taped in Chicago this summer. It was fun, interesting and surprising. Here are some of the nuggets I picked up while interviewing its directors, executives, experts and people who brought items to be valued.

1. If you live in Albuquerque, NM, Chicago, IL, New York, NY, Charleston, WV, Austin, TX, Birmingham, AL, Santa Clara, CA, Bismark, ND, the towns visited this spring and summer, you can check  Antiques Roadshow about late September or early October to see when the segment closest to home will air in 2015.

2. To get more information about the 2014 summer tour click here. To see photos of some gems taped during the 2014 summer tour, go to behind the scenes.

3. If you want to attend an Antiques Roadshow appraisal event, check the first Monday in January when the show premiers its 19th season. Announcements are made on line and usually at the premier about where the show will tape that spring and summer.  Look online for ticket application information.  Tickets are given out by random drawing, not first come, but be sure to get yours in before the deadline, usually early April. Two tickets are given free of charge to the applicant drawn.

Surprises

A century-old German doll with all its original clothes was worth much more than its owner thought.

A century-old German doll with all its original clothes was worth much more than its owner thought.

There’s more to an Antiques Roadshow event than the expected wow.  Yes, some items are valued much higher than the people who brought them think. But other items are chosen for their education value as copies, tourist market objects or fakes. An art object brought to the Chicago taping could be worth $20,000 if authenticated but would be $2,000 as a decorative piece, if not.

Among the surprises in Chicago was that even though 3,000 people received two tickets each and could bring two items, meaning that the experts had 18,000 objects to consider, the appraisals and discussions were all done in one Saturday starting with 8 a.m. ticket holders and not ending until all 5 p.m. ticket holders were seen.

Another amazing tidbit is that the experts pay their own way to come to the cities being taped. They do get television exposure but they cannot hand their cards to the people they meet.  Of the approximately 150 experts on the show’s roster, about 70 came to the Chicago taping.

Reaction to an appraisal value is often a surprise. During a Chicago taping that evaluated a century-old doll, its owner became emotional when learning she would have to add a zero to the couple hundred dollars she thought it would bring. She kept it in a closet but originally was going to sell it. After the appraisal she changed her mind.

Keeping an object after appraisal is not surprising according to Executive Producer Marsha Bemko who speaks to groups across the country. “ One of the interesting things is whether its business or another group, 20-year-olds, 60 or 80, they have a question in common:  what happened to the objects after a person leaves the Roadshow. I tell them it’s about the relationship. It does not matter what the object is worth. They never sell the objects,” Bemko said. She added that a few exceptions did occur when the object was picked up cheap at a garage sale and had no family value.

Visitors were divided according to objects they brought by a generalist appraiser who gave them a ticket for the right table and area.

Visitors were divided according to objects they brought by a generalist appraiser who gave them a ticket for the right table and area.

Interesting

No matter where the Antiques Roadshow visits and how the the town’s convention center is configured, the set where the appraisals and taping are done will be the same. Windows are shut off and backdrops are set up.

Each town’s one-day taping is divided into three episodes. Host Mark Walberg introduces three visits outside the convention center using a different expert at each place. The outside visits, typically to a museum, a person’s collection or a significant building, is to give a sense of place to the town visited, according to Bemko. “Otherwise, all you see is the convention center,” she said.

In Chicago, the outside the convention center visits were to the Art Institute of Chicago, the Lyric Opera and Crab Tree Farm in the northern suburbs.

For more Antiques Roadshow interesting insight visit the Roadshow Scene

Fun

Merely circulating among the experts, camera crew and folks carrying paintings, sculptures, vases and carefully wrapped treasures was fun. It was also delightful to talk with people who loved coming even though their objects were not worth much

To learn about some of the items that  will appear on Chicago segments click Chicago

Photos by Jodie Jacobs

New visitor center makes navigating Chicago easier

Visiting Chicago can be overwhelming without a little concierge help. You know to toss questions at a hotel concierge but when downtown you now have another concierge desk ready to answer those “where are” and “how do you get there” questions.

A new Chicago Visitors Center recently opened at Macy's on State Street

A new Chicago Visitors Center recently opened at Macy's on State Street

Macy’s on State Street added a terrific Visitor Information Center in June in conjunction with Choose Chicago, the city’s main tourist information bureau.

The Macy’s center has a concierge desk, maps, brochures and interactive kiosks that have dining, attractions and shopping suggestions.

When you stop in the store, ask for directions to the fountain and its main escalators. Then go down to lower level near the candy and food area to find the Visitor Information Center.

The kiosks there will not merely light up with restaurant suggestions for several types of cuisines and tell you how to get to your restaurant of choice by bus, car or walking, it will also print out the directions so you don’t have to write them down. Same goes for attractions such as museums and shopping categories.

Restaurant choices and how to get there are on interactive kiosks

Restaurant choices and how to get there are on interactive kiosks

However, you can also check at the desk for savings passes and other information.

Macy’s has the International and Domestic Savings Program that gives a 10 percent discount on most store purchases to visitors from outside the store’s shopping region. Qualifying documentation such as a government issued ID is needed. The Savings Pass can be printed at interactive kiosks or from the concierge desk. BTW, remember on your travels to ask for a Macy’s savings pass when at the company’s other stores.

Visit Macy’s State Street for more information.

Photos (C) Jodie Jacobs

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