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Essential gear for summertime hiking

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Anything can happen in the wilderness. That’s why it’s important to be well equipped when hiking, even if you’re only planning on being out on the trails for a few hours. Here’s a list of everything you need for a day hike.

• Backpack (20 to 40 liters is ideal) and a waterproof bag cover
• High quality hiking shoes and socks
• Moisture wicking clothing

• Extra clothes including rain gear, a fleece vest, a long-sleeved shirt, dry socks, a warm hat and gloves
• Sun protection including a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen
• Head lamp and spare batteries
• Identification
• Watch
• Trail map and a compass
• Toilet paper
• Fully charged phone
• Plenty of water
• Food and snacks
• Survival kit that includes a multi-purpose tool, duct tape, rope, a lighter, a whistle, a survival blanket and water purification tablets
• First aid kit that includes adhesive bandages, scissors, splints, bug spray, over the counter pain medications, tweezers and antiseptic ointment
• Trekking poles (not essential, but nice to have in many scenarios)

You may not use everything on this list during your hike, but if you need it, you’ll be happy you thought ahead.

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Summer staycation – Be a tourist in your own town!

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The Front Royal Visitors Center, a popular Front Royal tourist destination will be opening again soon. Royal Examiner File Photos by Roger Bianchini

You don’t have to venture far to make the most out of your summer. In fact, there are several advantages to remaining close to home. You’ll save money on transportation and accommodations, contribute to the local economy, and feel more connected to our community.

Summer is the perfect time to soak up the sun at local parks, campgrounds, or to learn something new at nearby museums, art galleries, and historical sites. You could also lower your handicap at the golf course, browse through local boutiques, and outdoor dine at nearby restaurants. Also, be sure to check out the shows, festivals, and performances taking place right in our town later this summer.

This summer, why not play tourist in your own town? Simply consult the Royal Examiner or visit the visitor center to put together a list of places to go and things to do. Check out the website ‘Discover Front Royal’ for things to do in our community.

We’ll be back open soon, so start your plans now.

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Personalized trips: creating unique travel experiences

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Are you the kind of traveler that likes to venture off the beaten path? Do you long to create memorable trips without the hassle of planning them? Enter the travel agent of the modern age: your partner in creating the customized experience you long for.

A tailor-made experience
Whether you wish to wine and dine in Italian vineyards or hike through the Australian Outback, your travel planner can do the legwork involved in building an itinerary, one that’s truly tailored to your preferences, needs and desires.

Typically, these experts work with local guides and organizations to ensure you get a unique experience. How much they map out of your trip depends on you, but planning is typically comprehensive and based on the activities you want to take part in and how long you want to spend at each location.

A convenient service
Beyond helping you create the perfect itinerary, your travel planner will take care of everything from plane tickets to hotel rooms, guides, activities, restaurant recommendations, car reservations and even private drivers. By working with an experienced agent, all you’ll need to do is pack and enjoy the adventure.

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Travel insurance: more expensive with age?

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If you’re 60 or older and would like to travel abroad, you’ll need to make room in your budget for travel insurance. However, the cost increases as you get older. Here’s what you should know.

The price of protection
An insurance policy that costs $1,000 for a 65-year-old couple can easily double in price for a 75-year-old couple. This augmentation will typically occur even if there aren’t any pre-existing health conditions. Insurance providers tend to assign a much higher level of risk to certain age brackets.

How to shop around
Given the high cost of travel insurance, it’s essential that you shop around when planning your trip. Unsurprisingly, your overall health will have an impact on the kind of coverage you can get. This also applies to the basic travel insurance offered by credit card providers, the terms of which may change once you reach a certain age.

The best thing to do before booking a trip is to speak to an insurance broker so they can help you get the best policy available.

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4 things to look at when assessing travel reviews

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If you’re planning a vacation, you may be wondering if you can trust reviews on websites like TripAdvisor and Yelp. The answer is yes, as long as you know what to look for. Here are four things to take into consideration when assessing reviews.

1. The date. Refer to the most recent reviews available. Criticism about a hotel or restaurant from seven years ago is probably out of date.

2. The amount. The greater the number of reviews about a place, the better your chances are of finding useful information about it.

3. The content. If you take the time to read people’s reviews, you may find out all kinds of useful information. For example, a highly-rated hotel may be praised for its all-night dance club, which isn’t ideal if you’re traveling with children but may be perfect for honeymooners.

4. The photos. People leaving travel reviews often include photos. These will give you a more honest look at what you can expect than the professional photos included on a property’s website.

Remember that travelers often take to travel review sites to vent their frustrations with an experience that may not be universal. However, some resorts and hotels pay people to leave excellent reviews that aren’t deserved. The best policy when assessing reviews is to ignore the highest and lowest ratings and focus instead on the majority of reviews that are somewhere in the middle.

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Plan early for inexpensive January get-aways

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The end of the year can leave many of us feeling drained, emotionally and financially. A vacation to recover from the holidays — is it even possible?

Absolutely. Start planning now, and you may find that a January holiday is surprisingly affordable.

And to springboard your brainstorming, here are a smattering of ideas from Travel and Leisure on cheapest places to travel in January (note that some are cold-weather locales, naturally. Keep an open mind!):

* Chicago, Illinois. Great food, music, museums, and sports. And in January, hotels are 50 percent more affordable than high season, while an average round-trip ticket is $179.10.

* Boston, Mass. Catch the Boston Symphony Orchestra in its world-famous concert hall, check out any number of fantastic museums, grab a great meal, and maybe see the Celtics play. Boston in January offers a 53 percent savings on hotel rates and flights are an average of $200.66.

* Toronto, Canada. Eat your way through this diverse city, which lays claim to a Chinatown, Koreatown, Little Italy, Little Portugal, and a Greek Town. Toronto also boasts the world’s longest underground shopping complex, at 19 miles. Hotels are 33 percent more affordable and plane tickets average $280.65 from the U.S.

* San Diego, Calif. Here’s a balmy option with beautiful scenery, architecture, beaches, and tons of great food. The San Diego Brew Festival takes place in January, showing off some of the area’s 130-plus craft breweries and delicious food truck fare. You’ll save 37 percent on hotels, while round-trip tickets average $274.95.

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How to overcome a fear of flying

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Is your fear of flying stopping you from taking your dream vacation? This phobia is a common one, but it can be overcome. Here are some tips to help you manage it.

• Pinpoint the source. For some people, being afraid to fly stems from a fear of heights. For others, it’s the lack of control. Knowing where your fear comes from will help you take the necessary steps to surmount it.

• Learn everything you can. Knowing how a plane stays in the air, where turbulence comes from and what built-in safety features are featured on airplanes can be comforting and help dispel some of your worst what-if scenarios.

• Talk to the cabin crew. Pilots and flight attendants help keep you safe while you’re in the air. Meeting with them and chatting for a few minutes can help assure you that you’re in good hands.

• Optimize your experience. Book a direct flight to minimize the number of take-offs and landings necessary to make the trip. Additionally, choose a seat near the wing where you’ll feel the least amount of turbulence.

• Distract yourself. Deep breathing exercises can help you remain calm during tense moments on a flight. Or, settle in with a good movie or book to help keep your mind occupied.

If you’re struggling to get over your fear of flying, don’t hesitate to reach out. A psychologist can help you identify the root of your anxiety and provide you with the tools to overcome it.

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