How smart are you about traveling with your cell phone?

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.

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. 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.

Great vacation destinations lie just over the Canadian border if you know the crossing rules

Watching the Olympics this year with the gorgeous scenery surrounding Vancouver and Whistler put British Columbia on lots of summer and winter trip lists.

A fine wine trail and the Shaw Festival just north and west of Niagara Falls makes Southern Ontario a good summer and early fall vacation destination.

Fall color around Montreal and Quebec City adds incentive to move those places up on the someday list.

These areas are an easy drive from the northern parts of western, central and eastern United States, respectively. They are all also accessible by AmTrak and international airports. But you are crossing an international border so you do have to know the entry and re-entry to the US rules and regs.

Taste the ice wine and tour Peller Estates in Niagara on the Lake, Ontario
Taste the ice wine and tour Peller Estates in Niagara on the Lake, Ontario

If you go – what you need to know

What used to be a simple showing of a US driver’s license has changed in recent years. To avoid disappointment, know ahead of time what you need for identification and what can be carried either way across the border.

The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA) resulted in the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) which requires a passport or other approved documents regarding citizenship and identity to enter or re-enter the US. The WHTI air travel requirements were in place 2007 and the land and sea documents were necessary as of June 1, 2009.

Entry into Canada

Regulations to cross the border is determined by Canadian law and the Canada Border Services Agency. They require identity and citizenship proof. A valid U.S. passport, passport card or NEXUS card  are OK for US citizens

If you are going to do a camping trip to Canada you need to know about permits and what you can and cannot bring across the border.

Returning to the US

Re-entry is according to US Customs and Border Protection (CBP is the law enforcement agency under the Dept. of Homeland Security)and US law.

By air: US citizens must present a valid U.S. passport to enter or re-enter the United States.

By land or sea: US citizens must present either a U.S. passport, passport card, NEXUS card, Enhanced Drivers License or other Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI)-compliant document.  US citizens under age 16 (or under 19, if with a school, religious, or other youth group) need to present a birth certificate (original, photocopy or certified copy), Consular Report of Birth Abroad, or naturalization certificate.

Vehicle safeguards: No matter what is reported in your local papers, criminal activity is not a US specialty. Indeed, smash and grab thefts in such Canadian cities as Vancouver and Montreal have led to fines on motorists for leaving valuables in view or unlocked vehicles. Vehicle problems, including auto theft, do happen even in parking lots.

Purchases: Be cautious about where you buy items. As in other countries, counterfeit and pirated goods are available but are illegal. Bringing them into the United States may result in a fine or forfeiture. Agricultural items are not allowed back in the US.

Insurance coverage: Accidents happen. Don’t assume your auto and medical insurance companies cover you abroad. Check before you go to see if you need additional coverage.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) lists the following items as approved identification documents to board a plane in the US

  • U.S. passport
  • U.S. passport card
  • DHS “Trusted Traveler” cards (NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
  • U.S. Military ID (active duty or retired military and their dependents, and DOD civilians)
  • Permanent Resident Card
  • Border Crossing Card
  • DHS-designated enhanced driver’s license
  • Drivers Licenses or other state photo identity cards issued by Department of Motor Vehicles (or equivalent) that meets REAL ID benchmarks (All states are currently in compliance)
  • A Native American Tribal Photo ID
  • An airline or airport-issued ID (if issued under a TSA-approved security plan)
  • A foreign government-issued passport
  • Canadian provincial driver’s license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) card
  • Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC)

More Canadian travel information and tips

Alaska, the Inside Passage, part 1

Starting out 

Flying into Vancouver, B.C. is the perfect opener to an eye-popping scenic adventure. Miles of forests, rivers, straits and mountains surround the city, whetting the appetite for the gorgeous scenery to come.  To stay overnight in Vancouver, we chose a hotel on the water within walking distance of our port. But we arrived early enough to take a scenic bus tour around the city. Floatplanes constantly took off and landed outside our hotel, giving us our first idea of how important small planes are for getting around in BC and Alaska.

As host to the Olympics in early 2010, Vancouver  added several hotels so finding one to meet the budget and travel style is not a problem. 

Vancouver BC
Vancouver’s cruise ship port looks like a distant cousin of the Sydney Opera House
Float Plane Landing Vancouver BC
Floatplanes constantly landed and took off outside our hotel



Vancouver BC
Stanley Park, a good place to spend the day, sticks out into the water like a thumb


Jaded travelers may say that Ketchikan, usually the first port of call, is a mere tourist trap. Maybe if a visitor spends the entire time on shore browsing the cute village shops, the person would leave with the impression the town is about shopping.  We did our share of browsing but what we loved in Ketchikan was the Saxman Native Village. The town claims to have the world’s largest collection of totem poles. Many of them can be seen at Saxman, Totem Bight State Park and the Totem Heritage Center.  After sitting and putting away more food that was good for us, we also liked the hike to Saxman, particularly passing trees filled with eagles and houses that had totem poles out front. 

Ketchikan, Alaska
Cute shops attract shoppers in Ketchikan, a fishing village also known for its totem poles

Totem poles line the Saxman Native Village entrance
Totem poles line the Saxman Native Village entrance
Saxman should be a Ketchikan destination
Saxman should be a Ketchikan destination

Eagles take over the trees on the way to Saxman
Eagles take over the trees on the way to Saxman

Links For More Info:

Tourism Vancouver
Travel Alaska
Visit Ketchikan

Coming Up: Alaska, the Inside Passage, part 2

Move travel to Alaska up on the vacation destination list

Alaskan Glaciers
Alaskan Glaciers

You think a spectacular phenomenon such as the glaciers in Alaska will remain amazing no matter when you manage to travel there.  That is unless you attend a climate change conference or the new, temporary “Climate Change” exhibit that opened at Chicago’s Field Museum June 25, 2010. After seeing in graphic detail that Greenland and the glaciers across the northern hemisphere are shrinking, going to Alaska takes on a new urgency. 


 Now that it’s high on the list comes the interesting part – looking at all the options that turn a good trip into a great one. The best options are the ones that fit your lifestyle.



Getting there  


Sunset from the ship
Sunset from the ship

We were traveling with another couple so a few compromises entered the planning. The result was to take a Princess Line cruise from Vancouver, British Columbia, just over the Canadian border, to travel up the Inside Passage. Our option, booked ahead, was to leave half the passengers who were just doing the cruise, then continue on with Princess across Prince William Sound for our land portion. We chose Princess because the company has lodges in different Alaskan locations and buses to get us there so we could relax and leave the arrangements to someone else. That is not our usual style but it worked well for Alaska.




• Book a room in Vancouver or from wherever you will be sailing the night before you leave on your cruise. Not only does this apply to Alaska, but is a good tip for taking any cruise, anywhere in the world. Weather and transportation schedules are too iffy to chance “missing the boat,” as the saying goes.  In addition, towns like Vancouver are worth seeing as part of your trip.

• Consider traveling just before or just after the main tourist season. For Alaska, tourist season is summer when the mosquitoes are large and swarming and the prices are higher. The end of May into early June is a better time to go. The weather is not so cold as to hinder sightseeing and you won’t have to share the sights with hundreds of other visitors. Just add a jacket and a couple of turtleneck shirts to the suitcase.

• Speaking of packing, bring binoculars to better spot whales and other sea life and bring more than one pair of comfortable walking shoes. If you like dressing up, throw the fancy duds into the suitcase but you don’t really need to pack a tux and gown any longer. A jacket for men and cocktail dress for women will get you through the door on formal nights.

  • There is not a lot of open sea time traveling to Alaska.  People who want a spa treatment aboard should look at the schedule when booking the trip, then make an appointment for the treatment well in advance to get the desired time. This is true for any cruise. The same book ahead advice applies to snagging a seat for an evening splurge in the fine-dining restaurant.

Coming up next: Alaska, the Inside Passage