What Not to Wear for a Passport Photo

passport photos

Have an international trip coming up, and you need a passport photo?  First, obtaining a passport photo is a major step to getting your passport.  Second, not following the State Department’s rules will certainly qualify you for a returned application.  So, before you head to the photo store to obtain a passport photo become knowledgeable.

Don’t count on the photographer knowing the rules.  Most don’t, so educate yourself before you leave home.  I had to have my passport photo retaken because I wore a headband.  I was so glad the photo shop was close to the passport application office.  However, it was frustrating and time consuming to have it done twice.

Here are a few tips:

Hats – No baseball caps, fedoras, straw hat, cowboy/cowgirl hats or any other head covering is allowed.

Head Scarves – Scarves worn for religious purposes are allowed.  However, scarves worn for fashion are not.

Headband – Avoid anything that will obstruct your hairline.  This includes headbands and/or scarves.

Glasses – Glasses are not allowed.  This includes prescription or sunglasses.

Uniform – Military, scrubs, police or security guards and/or pilot uniforms are not allowed.  Religious clothing is allowed.

A Smile –  As of 2016, the State Department does not allow passport applicants to smile in their photos.

Electronic Headgear – This includes earphones, Bluetooth or other electronic devices.

The State Department requires that an applicant’s picture not be older than 6 months. Why, because the State Department wants the photo to reflect your current appearance.  Furthermore, your photo must be 2 x 2.  Therefore, wherever you have your passport photo taken, they should return to you in the correct size.  As a result, it will need to fit into the appropriate area on your passport application.  You will want to implement the following too:

  • The background of the photo must be solid white
  • The photo must be in color
  • Photo paper should be glossy or a matte finish
  • Lay infants on a white sheet or infant blanket.  Next, place the white sheet or blanket in the carrier or on the area provided.  Most importantly, your child should be able to look into the camera, and their eyes must be open.

Finally, you may also like How to Obtain a Passport in 5 Easy Steps.

New York City Travel and Sites From Your Favorite TV Shows

 

New York City Travel

 

New York City has been the backdrop for many popular TV shows and movies.  In fact, you may have grown-up watching some shows featuring NYC sites and locations.  So, when in the Big Apple be sure to visit those very places in person and relive those shows all over again!

Here is a list of NYC sites you may have seen in some of your favorite TV shows:

HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER

Five character of the main characters You must have seen how 5 of the main characters of this popular TV show spent so much of their spare time at a bar. And that bar was real. The real NYC pub or bar – MacLaren’s – is at 240 W. 55th Street.  Check out the menu items; some have been renamed after scenes from the show.

GOSSIP GIRL

The popular TV series “Gossip Girl” used many real-life NYC sites, which you can visit to feel the magic once again. Do you recall how the characters in the series, including Serena, Blair and friends had lunch on the steps of the iconic Metropolitan Museum of Art?  To see where Serena lived with her family, visit the Palace Hotel.  And to see Chuck Bass’ home, you can visit the Empire Hotel.

Cafe Grumpy’s

Remember Café Grumpy’s from the hit HBO show, Girls? This coffee spot is for real with locations throughout NYC.  The locations include Greenpoint, Chelsea and the Lower East Side.  You can see people hang out, read and get their morning cup of caffeine at this popular coffee shop in the city.

Mad Men

Numerous TV shows have been shot at the Oyster Bar.  The Oyster Bar seafood restaurant has been located on the lower level of the Grand Central Terminal since 1931.  It has been quite popular among locals as well as visitors. If you were a fan of the TV series, “Mad Men”, you must have seen how Don Draper sabotaged his boss at the bar.

Sex and the City

When the Magnolia Bakery made its way in the TV series, Sex and the City, its popularity has reached a new level. The bakery in Greenwich Village still sells delicious cupcakes for visitors. Did you notice how Carrie and Miranda spend a lot of time here sitting and chatting about many things?

Seinfeld

In the popular sitcom, “Seinfeld,” you must have seen Monk’s Café which served as a hangout spot for Elaine, Jerry, Kramer and George. The café was actually fictional using the real exterior of Tom’s Restaurant in the Upper West Side.  Locals have favored this restaurant since 1940.  Visit and recreate the magic of this popular TV show all over again.

We hope you enjoy our New York City travel tips.  Finally, use the hop-on hop-off New York  for sight seeing and tours.

How to Save on Vacations: We Have 20 Tips

 

money saving tips on vacatins

 

 

 

 

While travel is not a household’s biggest expense, family vacations are expenditures that many families care. We have great tips to show you how to save on vacations. Getaways can also be expensive.  Particularly when traveling with kids. Even so, here are 20 ways to push through your vacations and save at the same time.

1. Be Flexile on Flights 

Save big money on travel by flying during less popular times, such as early in the morning, late at night, or midweek. When booking online, use the flexible-travel-date feature that lets you compare fares for days on either side of your target date.

2. Book early

Book trips between 27 to 114 days in advance saves a significant amount of money. The prices of airfares, according to CheapAir.com, fluctuate until about 14 days out, when they reach their maximum.

3. Carry-ons

Avoid paying huge checked-bag charges by making sure that several of your suitcase adheres to the standard carry-on size (9 inches x 14 inches x 22 inches). You can carry these bags on the plane and place them in the overhead bins.  Pack several large or a large suitcase for family clothing and toiletries.  Be sure to pack light.   

4. Hotel rooms

Call potential hotel rooms in your vacation destination and ask about discounted rooms.  AAA rates and any other specials can help cut cost. Do this before booking your hotel room.  Reservations can be made on-line.  Be sure to get a confirmation number and ensure your discount has been applied.

5. Vacation homes/condo

Consider booking a vacation home or condo rather than at a hotel. It will usually cost less and is more comfortable for the kids.  They also full or partial kitchens which can be used to cook some of the meals or house snacks.  

6. All-inclusive resort

When traveling outside the U.S., consider an all-inclusive resort, which includes meals, drinks, and entertainment. All-inclusive resorts offer maximum value while making budgeting for vacation easier.

7. Special promotions

Find online promotions related to your vacation. Attraction tickets are often less expensive when bought online, especially during certain days of the week.  If you don’t know where to start online, consider hiring a travel agent.  These agents work on commission and won’t charge you.

8. Coupons

Search the Internet for coupons you can use once you reach your destination. There are many sites that will show you how to save on vacations. Family deals are often offered when purchasing multiple tickets. Special Internet offers are also available when buying tickets online.

9. Deals

Find discounts and deals for your destination by using Groupon or Living Social. Also, check your destination’s local newspaper for specials and discount coupons. You can find special deals on How to Save on Vacations in local newspapers or the hotel you will be staying in. 

10. Transportation

Check to see if your hotel or resort offers shuttle service. You can eliminate car rental fees.  Use taxis or Uber, which can take you to outlying locations at a cost lower than a rental car.

11. Car rental

If you need to rent a car, go with a local car rental company instead of renting one at an airport location. Local car rentals help you to avoid high airport rates and fees.  Check to see if  they offer service to and from the off-site location. 

12. Car seats for kids

If you are using a rental car you may need a car seat.  Renting a car seat can set you back more than $5 a day. Save on car seat fees by bringing your own car seat for your kid. 

13. Supplies

If you are driving, pack plenty of drinking water, bread, cold cuts, healthy snacks and other supplies. This helps avoid stopping and buying on impulse. Once you reach your destination, shop at the local grocery store for supplies. 

14. Vacation essentials

Bring basic vacation items such as sunscreen and water bottles. Bringing your own essentials is far cheaper than buying them in hotels and amusement parks.

15. Packed lunches

If possible and when you can, prepare bag lunches each day for adults and for kids,  This can help avoid spending more, particularly on fast food chains.

16. Travel needs

Buy water, snacks and everything you need for a trip at a grocery store instead of purchasing them at the hotel, which usually sell overcharged items.

17. Eating locally

Eating at local restaurants is not only less expensive but also makes the trip more of an adventure. Ask for suggestions from your hotel’s front desk or from your vacation home’s contact.

18. Rewards points

When booking your airfare, hotels, or rental car, use points you have earned from credit card purchases or loyalty programs. Also, use credit cards that offer extra bonus points when used at supermarkets.

19. Apps

Download money-saving apps that you can use for gas, sites along a route, local diners, and accommodations. Save them in your phone during the planning stages of your trip.

20. Off season

Consider traveling during off-peak times. It will be cheaper and is less crowded than traveling during popular dates. Many vacation destinations offer reduced rates during the off season.

We hope that you find our tips on How to Save on Vacations beneficial.  You may not be able to or need to implement them all, so just implement the ones that will save you the most.

About the Author:

Stephanie is a freelance writer who resides in Gilbert, Arizona.  She is co-owner of  How Much Is itAside from spending time with her family, she also enjoys hiking, biking and scrapbooking

13 Tips for Parents Traveling With Children

 

travel tips for parents

 

Any parent knows that traveling with young children isn’t the easiest of the things. At times, it can be outright challenging, especially if you’re a single parent. But most parents are known to be resourceful which is why we know they would love any tip or suggestion that would make traveling with children easier and much more fun!

Here, is a set of tips and tricks for all parents who wish to make the most of globe-trotting with their children!

 

 Don’t Forget the Medicine at Home

This is very important and something a lot of parents overlook. Do not forget the medicine whatever you do! Bring medicine for pain, upset tummies, fevers, allergies, and any prescription medicines.

 

Book Transportation in Advance

When leaving on vacation with your child, it is important to think ahead. Transportation is so important.  Arrange a limo service from your home to the door of the airport terminal and back home.  This eliminates parking the car and getting the children from the parking lot to the terminal. Also, don’t just rely on the fact that you will find a taxi when you get off the airplane!  Call the hotel to inquire about shuttles.  If you need to rent a car, make a reservation in advance.  Make sure the rental company has car seats and/or boosters if you’re not bringing yours.  Most importantly, most airlines will ship your car seats for free.  However, for a small weekly fee it may be more convenient to just rent.

 

Board Early

We know it can be hard to leave the house early when going on vacation with a small child.  However, you must give yourself sufficient time to arrive at the airport early.  This will allow time to allow the children to relax.  Additionally, most airlines will allow parents with children to board early. Boarding early will also release tension and stress. 

 

Bring Toys and Electronics 

You will need to bring toys and electronics to occupy the children.  These are great while you’re waiting to board the plane, on the plane and occupying them at the hotel or resort.  You will need to bring chargers for the electronics.  As far as the toys, travel light. 

 

Don’t Be Afraid of Your Stroller

Some parents avoid bringing the stroller because it’s too heavy or too hard to carry around on vacations. However, we advise against that. A stroller can be a huge help, especially on vacations and in airports, when you have to do a lot of walking. You also need to know that strollers don’t count as luggage.  So, they will ship for free. 

 

Do a Little Training Before You Leave

If your child is old enough to remember tasks, then it is wise to do a little training before you leave on your vacation. Explain to them what to expect and what is expected from them. Make it short, because we all know kids aren’t too good at paying attention for long periods of time.

 

Invest in a Child Tracker

The thought that you might lose your child is enough to make any parent break out in a cold sweat.  Get a child tracker. Research what other parents have used and recommended.  Most can be worn as a bracelet or attached to clothes. Pick the one you think is best for your kid!

 

Do Your Check In Online

Online check in has improved airports so much!  You can avoid lines by simply checking in online.  Procedures vary from airline to airline, so be sure to check your Carrier’s procedures.  Download any apps and make sure they are working properly before you head to the airport.  On-line check in allows you to breeze through the airport in no time.

 

Flight Attendants are Your Friends

Flight attendants are there to help you and you! As a parent traveling with a small child, you should take advantage of  as much as you can. We’re not saying that you should pester them with non-stop requests, but you shouldn’t feel guilty when you need something.  They’d be more than happy to help!

 

Research, Research, Research

Researching a hotel is one of the best things a traveler can do before booking a vacation. You need to know if a hotel offers babysitting and activities.  Also, ask if they have a crib, playpen or laundry service. Everything you need to have a great vacation!  Websites such as Hotels or TripAdvisor are awesome for finding out this type of information.

 

Noise Cancelling Headphones

A pair of good noise cancelling headphones can really make a difference when traveling with a young child. You can use them when your child is napping on the plane or train.  Make sure that you choose a pair that fits. 

 

Early to Bed, Early to Rise

When on vacation with a small child, it is very important that they go to bed early.  Making sure they are rested for the next day’s activities is important. Besides, if they go to bed early you get a little time to yourself. Unwinding, relaxing, and planning out the schedule for the next day.

 

Stay As Close the Attractions as Possible

When booking a hotel, do your best to choose a hotel that is as close as possible to the attractions. These hotels do tend to be pricier.  Also, you save a lot of time and you can be in and out of things such as museums, parks, and other sites that you can walk to. 

 

 


About the Author

Cristina Costea

Cristina is the Community Manager of BookSinglesHolidays.com, a themed travel website offering a vast collection of singles vacations & solo holidays. She is also a passionate traveler, cat aficionado and novice writer.

           

5 Places To Travel for the Best Wildlife Experience

 

tips on where to find the best wild life experience

As the English writer Samuel Johnson said, “The use of traveling is to regulate imagination by reality, and instead of thinking how things may be, to see them as they are.” So if you’ve always imagined how it looks like when a huge whale breaches the ocean’s surface or a lion hunts its prey, there’s no reason not to go and see it in person. Luckily, today there are many wildlife holidays you can opt for. And if a true wildlife experience is what you’re seeking, these five destinations might just be perfect for you.

Gansbaai (South Africa)

There’s hardly anything more extreme than diving into the shark-infested waters of South Africa. Gansbaai is a small fishing village in South Africa, famous for shark cage diving. Since the waters in this part of South Africa are full of sharks, tourists have a chance to get into a cage and see these marvelous creatures in person. The cages in which you go under the water are 100% shark-proof and there’s nothing to be afraid of.  Not to mention that this thrilling experience is something that’ll inspire you for a lifetime. The best time to visit Gansbaai is May to October since that’s when the success rate of shark sighting is highest and surpasses 95%.

Quebec (Canada)

Quebec is a city that sits on the St Lawrence River and it’s just a couple of hours away from the gulf of St Lawrence.  During certain times of the year, you can spot up to 13 different whale species   This includes humpback, blue, fin and killer whales among them. The best time to visit Quebec and go on a whale-watching trip is between mid-May and mid-October. There are many whale-watching operators that can take you to this beautiful place. There’s nothing to be afraid of as there are strict rules and ships aren’t allowed to get too close to the whales.

Corcovado (Costa Rica)

The national park of Corcovado is surely one of the most intense biological places on the planet. Cloud forests, old-growth wet forests, wild beaches and mangrove swamps you can come across in this national park are absolutely magnificent. Not only this, but Corcovado is full of tropical wildlife.  Tapirs, red macaws, quetzals and many different types of monkeys are just some of the animals you can spot in this amazing place. If you’re lucky, you might even get a chance to see a mountain lion or jaguar hunting for turtles on the beach. Since this is one of the wettest places on earth, make sure you visit it during the dry season (January to March).

Serengeti (Tanzania)

The great migration is one of the most dramatic scenes of African wildlife.  During the migration, more than 1.5 million wildebeests and 200,000 zebras set off on their 1,200-mile odyssey. What makes the great migration so special is that all of these animals are hunted by predators during their journey. Wildebeests and zebras follow the rain, which means you’ll have to plan your travels accordingly. The best time to visit Tanzania is  February or March.  This the time when animals congregate in Serengeti. By June and July, animals get to Masai Mara (Kenya) and that’s where you can witness magnificent Grumeti River crossings.

Yellowstone (USA)

The Lamar Valley of Yellowstone National Park is another area you’ll simply have to see if you’re into wildlife holidays. This place is famous for being a home to “big five” animals in the USA. The famous “big five” consists of the grizzly, bison, elk, wolf and cougar.  If you visit Yellowstone, chances are you’ll get to see all of them. If you get up early in the morning, you might even spot a bear or wolf looking for a pray.  Spotting a cougar may be more difficult but it’s possible if you’re persistent enough. If you want to record these incredible creatures by night, make sure you check out trail cameras before you visit Yellowstone.

All of these five places guarantee you a great time you’ll never be able to forget. So there’s no reason why you shouldn’t book your flight today.  Be a witness to some of the best wildlife experiences on earth.

Have you be on a wild life vacation before?  If so, where were you a what did you see.  If not, what spot would you like to visit.   You may also like 4 Top Family Activities in Bali.

Author  – Diana Smith is a full time mom of two beautiful girls simply in love with interior design and DIY projects. In her free time she enjoys exercising and preparing healthy meals for her family.

 

Why You Should Visit Amish Country – The Home and Farm

 

I spent the week-end in Lancaster, PA recharging my battery and admiring the Amish.  Regardless of the time span between my visits, I always find it to be peaceful. First, who can’t use a little peace in their life, right. We may recharge our batteries and seek peace in different ways, but we all need to stop and take action at some point.
Next, watching the Amish and their way of life causes me to pause. The fields of corn, horse and buggies, roadside produce stands, handmade quilts and the slow pace take me to a peaceful and simple way of living. They are gentle people with a deep belief in God and family above all else. Furthermore, they have a deep sense of community and helping their neighbor without the distraction of modern technology. Most importantly, they are self-sufficient, independent, and they take care of each other. They pay taxes, but no welfare or social security benefits for their community. They have no desire to integrate into our society, their lifestyle is a choice.  Plain and simple is their motto and they live it.
During my visits, I’ve taken tons of pictures and I thought I would share some of them with you in a two part post on the Amish and their lifestyle. This is Part I  – The Amish Home and Farm.  Before the Amish Home and Farm became a tourist attraction, Amish and Mennonites families lived in this house for many years.

 

 
Because most Amish families are large, most have 7 or more children, Amish homes are usually quite large.  When parents get older they remain at the home.  They usually stay in another home on the property called a Dawdi Haus.   The second home can also be used as a guest house.  The Amish take care of each other life.  Rarely is an Amish person put into a nursing home or sent elsewhere to live.
Furthermore, the Amish are a deeply religious community.  However, they don’t attend churches as we know it. For example, families take turns hosting church service at their homes. The picture above shows an Amish living room that has the furniture removed.  The host family removes the furniture and replaces it with benches.  Or, benches are set-up barn or buggy house on the property.
Benches are placed on both sides of the room. Women sit on one side and men on the other.  So, benches are placed on both sides of the room.  German is the official language of the service.  After the service, lunch is served.   Everyone socializes while the children play.  Sunday is the day of worship, so only the basic chores are done at home.  Therefore, businesses are closed. Visiting neighbors is high on the list for the Amish on Sundays.
 
There is no divorce in the Amish community.   The women take care of the home, husband, children and kitchen gardens.  The men bring home the money, work the fields and take care of the farm animals.  There are some Amish men and women who work outside the home or farm.  They own businesses such as making furniture, storage sheds and yard furniture.  Additionally, they also work as waitresses, in factories or other jobs with the English, non-Amish. I own 2 storage sheds built by the Amish.  Their work is superior.
Those who work on the farm are ready to go at sun up and stop working at sun down.  As a result, they eat a hearty breakfast before heading out to the fields.  Normally, they return around noon for lunch and again for dinner. They usually start their day at 5:30 am and are in bed by 8:00 or 9:00 pm.
The above picture is a typical Amish kitchen. Appliances are powered by propane gas.  Lights, faucets, sewing and washing machines, as well as blenders and mixers are powered by compressed air. As in most homes, the man sits at the head of the table and his wife to the right of him. The oldest child sits on the opposite end of the father. There are no pictures of family or children hanging on the walls, Amish do not take pictures. They do hang quilted wall hangings, a framed list of their children and their birthdays, framed puzzles etc.
 
Amish serve hearty meals.  They typically preserve hundreds of jars of vegetables, fruits and meat during the canning season to feed a family of 9 or more during the winter months. They are masters at baking bread, pies, and cakes.  Fortunately, they are able to grow their own fruit for jams, jellies, pies and cobblers as well as vegetables in their kitchen gardens. Their gardens and flower beds are meticulous. You won’t find a weed in them. The children start in the morning pulling weeds to ensure that nothing distracts from mom’s garden.  They butcher or use Amish butchering shops for their meat. Self-sufficiency and being experts at it is the name of the game.  And the Amish know how to play. They are astute at making things happen.
Amish women are experts at sewing and quilting.  They do the sewing for the entire family.  Furthermore, they make their own dresses and aprons, pants and shirts for their husbands and all of the children’s clothing.  Additionally, they also make quilts, diapers for infants and a host of other items. Most prefer the old Singer treadle sewing machines shown above.
They do shop at local stores such as Wal-mart for plates, glasses, and other home goods as well as undergarments, socks, hosiery, Birdseye diapers/pampers etc. Most stores provide hitching posts for their horse and buggies while they shop.
 
 
This is the typical wardrobe for Amish girls.  Dresses are muted colors and calf length.  Muted colors include: pink, green, purple, blue, brown and black.  However, no prints are allowed.  Prayer coverings are black or white. And are pinned onto the solid colored dresses.  Hook and eye closures can be used, but no buttons.  Prayer caps are white and heart shaped. Shoes are black.  I have seen the Lancaster Amish wear sandals, Crocs, sneakers or go barefoot.
 
Girls wear a white prayer cap around age 9.  A black bonnet can be worn over the prayer cap.  In the winter, a black cloak is worn.  The black bonnets may be worn without the cloak, but the black cloak can’t be worn without the black bonnet.  Also, Amish women do not cut their hair.  Amish women are not allowed to wear prints or jewelry, not even a wedding band.
 



This is a picture of a nursery or small child’s bedroom in the Amish home.  They have the usual furniture that you would find in a nursery: a crib, rocker, changing table and dresser.  What I didn’t see was a bottle warmers, mobile or  baby monitors.

 

I bet this changing table is worth a mint.  It was heavy and study.  The hardwood floors are the wide planks and absolutely beautiful.  Amish women take their ability to keep house seriously.  As a result, their homes are spotless.

 

This is the typical Amish boy’s room. The boys wear black pants that hit about the ankle.  Their shirts are muted colors with snaps and hook and eyes.  The pants are worn with suspenders, but they have no zipper.  Instead, hook and eyes are used.  On Sundays, the boys and men wear black pants, white shirts, black vests or jackets.  Married men grow beards without a mustache.

 

This is the typical dress of a married Amish woman.  Her aprons are black instead of white.  Her husband’s clothing, is the same as the boys.
Another fact is, Amish women usually give birth at home and are assisted by a mid-wife.  However, they can use a birthing center or hospital if they desire.  

 

 

It looks like an older son is replacing posts on the farm.  Also, he has several of his younger siblings on the wagon.  He made sure everything was in place after making each turn.  Amish boys work the fields with their fathers at an early age.  Women and girls also help if needed.  Usually, Belgian horses or mules pull the equipment.

 

Corn fields are abundant in Lancaster.  It is harvested in stored in the farm silo to feed the farm animals.  This young man above is handling a team of 6 horses.  The Amish are masters of their domain.   The women are subordinate, but equal partners in their marriage.  Women are involved in the daily operation of making the farm efficient and productive.  Many can be seen hand picking various vegetables or helping with the harvest.
Amazingly, the Amish still use wringer washers to do laundry.  Hanging clothes outside on a clothesline is still a part of their chores.  Once dry, they iron the clothes.
Most of all, Lancaster is a combination of things. For example, traffic, shopping malls, horse and buggies and endless rows of corn and other vegetables.  It’s a place where you can lose yourself in the simplicity of a culture.  The beauty of the farm houses and acres of rolling land capture your deepest senses.  Furthermore, it draws you into a life that can only be admired by those who are willing to put down their smart phones and laptops.  I admire their ability to persevere in the mist of modern technology.  Also, their calming affect takes me back to the days of running through the cool grass bare foot.  Eating homemade ice cream or drinking ice cold water from the hand pump down the lane when I visited my grandparents.  Oh, how I yearn for those days now.
Last, if you have an Amish community nearby and you haven’t visited, you should.  We can all learn from the Amish, and it’s a great family activity.  Additionally, you may also like:  Quilts, Transportation and Great Food.