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A road trip can be a great family adventure

Going on a long road trip is an exciting experience for both young and old – you get to experience beautiful scenery, walk around in new places and get to know the customs and traditions of each destination you visit.

To avoid any disappointment and enjoy the best trip possible, planning for the journey must begin long before you get in the car. So if you’re planning to take a road trip, consider the following ideas.

Travel budget

A budget will help you manage your expenses properly and can include:

  • Car maintenance. A qualified mechanic can check the condition of your brakes and tires. The mechanic can also tell you if you need any additional maintenance or parts replaced, and if the car is in its best condition for the trip.
  • Fuel expenses. Gas prices tend to vary by location. Find out the actual price of gas and calculate how much you’ll spend during the trip. It’s a good idea to estimate a bit on the higher side in case there are any emergencies.
  • Lodging, food and entertainment. Figure out your food and hotel expenses depending on how many people will be joining you on the trip. Remember to budget for family activities like visiting a museum, a park or a fair.

Routes and safe driving

Before and during your trip it’s important to:

  • Choose your destination. Each state has tourist attractions that are open to the public. America’s Byways has a search engine that helps you find things to do depending on where you are.
  • Drive with caution. Drive carefully when traveling on the road, this way you’ll avoid getting a ticket and you’ll be sure that the people on your trip are safe. Always make sure that your passengers have their seatbelts fastened.
  • Make frequent stops. The car ride itself may be fun, but remember to make frequent stops to stretch your legs, use the restroom, have a meal or just enjoy the scenery.

Child passengers

On long trips, children have special needs. Remember to:

  • Provide safety seats. There are many car seats and boosters specifically for children that can be placed in the back seat of your car. Find the appropriate seat for your child’s age or size and make sure it’s properly installed. Use the Car Seat Inspection Station Locator to find the nearest place where a technician can verify the seat is installed correctly and according to the law.
  • Bring snacks. Pack a cooler with healthy snacks that are portioned appropriately for your child’s age. These snacks help ensure that children are getting enough to eat and drink on the trip.
  • Immunize your children. All children under age six should receive their necessary vaccines (PDF) to avoid picking up illnesses or diseases that could be transmitted through direct contact, or by food and water. Also remember to pack cold, allergy, headache and stomach medications.

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Know the Difference Between your Visa Expiration Date and your Authorized Length of Stay

When you decide to travel to the United States, whether for business or pleasure, you’ll need both a passport and a visitor visa.

A visa issued by the U.S. consulate or embassy allows you to travel to the United States, but the immigration officer at the port of entry is the person who allows you to enter the country and decides how long you may stay.

Your visa expiration date

Your visa will state how long you are able to travel to the country. This length of time varies by case and depends on the decisions of the consular or embassy officials who process your application.

Note that the expiration date of your visa is not the same as the time you are allowed to remain in the country during each trip. For example, a visa that’s valid for 10 years allows you to travel back and forth to the United States for that period, but doesn’t mean you can stay in the country for the entire time.

Your length of stay in the United States

Upon entering the country you need to complete and submit an immigration I-94 form (which registers arrivals and departures). The forms are available at any air, sea or land port of entry.

The immigration officer will ask you a series of questions about the purpose of your visit. The agent will also stamp your passport with the date of arrival and write on your I-94 the length of time you can stay in the country — for example, 60 days. This length of time indicates your legal presence in the United States and may be extended if necessary.

How to extend your stay

When asking for an extension you need to verify that you haven’t exceeded your authorized stay.  For instance, if you arrived as a tourist but want to become a student, you must submit an application to change your status before your stay expires.

To make your request you must complete an I-539 form. Be sure to do this well in advance.

If you stay in the country beyond the authorized time, your presence will be considered illegal, and you could lose the privilege of returning to the United States or your visa renewal may be denied.

Get more details about how to extend your stay.

What to do if your documents get lost or stolen

If you lose your travel documents, or if they get stolen, follow these suggestions:

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Social Security and Retirement Plan

Many people like to get a head start on planning their family’s economic future. And without a doubt, a major part of that process concerns retirement.

When planning your own retirement, it’s important to consider factors such as your current economic situation, your future needs, and if you will be depending on other sources of income.

Social Security is an essential part in planning your retirement from the work force, and so it’s recommended that you get to know some of its most important aspects.

1.  Retirement Age

In order to retire and be able to collect Social Security benefits, you must be at least 62 years-old. However, if you begin to collect at that age, the funds will be permanently reduced. If instead you decide to retire at age 67, you will be able to collect your full benefits.

See the Social Security department’s Retirement Planner for further information.

2. Number of Social Security Credits Needed to Retire

In addition to reaching retirement age, you should also have accumulated a total of 40 credits. You earn credits depending on the number of years you worked. Generally you get four credits for every year you’ve worked.

If you’ve already accumulated 40 credits and you’d like to know the amount of money that you’d collect during your retirement, you can create an online Social Security account and receive a copy of your benefits.

If you don’t have the required 40 credits but would like an estimate of the amount of benefits you’d receive, you can use the retirement benefits calculator.

3. Retirement Abroad

You have the right to collect Social Security benefits even if you live in another country. But if you are receiving retirement payments from another country that isn’t the United States, Social Security may reduce those benefits.

There are certain regulations for U.S. citizens and residents, and for those living in countries such as Cuba, North Korea and others. You can find more information about your payments while living outside the United States.

Use this tool to see if you can continue receiving your Social Security Payments abroad.

Applying for retirement benefits and other information

You can apply for retirement benefits online or at a Social Security office near you.

If you’d like to receive more information, get in touch with Social Security at 1-800-772-1213 or at 1-800-325-0778 (TTY, for people with hearing disabilities).

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Love and care for your heart

Your heart is the engine of your body. And even though you might think it’s working normally, this major organ requires special care and attention.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 600,000 people in the United States die each year from heart disease. The CDC also reports that a quarter of Hispanics have high blood pressure.

There are many types of heart complications, but one of the most common is coronary heart disease.

What is coronary heart disease and what are the causes?

This illness — called atherosclerosis — happens when plaque forms in the artery walls, restricting normal blood flow through the body. This plaque is made up of cholesterol, calcium and other substances.

There are many risks factors causing coronary heart diseases, some related to your lifestyle or medical conditions, including:

  • High cholesterol
  • High blood pressure
  • Being overweight
  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • Smoking, among others

Health consequences

When a clogged artery restricts your flow of blood, you may experience these symptoms:

  • Chest pains
  • Irregular heartbeat or arrhythmias
  • Heart failure, or even a heart attack

Prevention and treatment

To reduce the risk of getting these or other heart diseases, take your blood pressure every six months and go over the results with your doctor. It’s also a good idea to eat well, exercise and not smoke.

Along with a balanced diet and exercise regimen, your physician may also prescribe medication to treat heart disease. If your condition is more advanced, bypass surgery may be needed to allow the blood to return to its normal flow.

Stay informed

Million Hearts is a national initiative where you can find information about heart disease. It also offers the opportunity to help prevent one million heart attacks and strokes by 2017.

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How to avoid scams that appear to be from the government

Every day, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) receives numerous complaints from people who have been scammed.

Some of these complaints are from people who are encouraged to reveal information about their salary, benefits, tax rebate, or bank information.

In order to get this information, the criminals pose as Federal government representatives and make fake letters, e-mails, phone calls or websites that look real and official.

Protect yourself from scammers by following these recommendations:

Be wary of suspicious calls. Don’t reveal personal information like your Social Security number, bank account or credit card numbers to people who call and tell you they work for the government. No government agency will ever call you out of the blue and ask for personal data.

Sign up on the National Do Not Call Registry to stop telemarketers from contacting you.

Don’t pay money when applying for a free scholarship or grant. Government agencies will not ask for money upfront to process any grants or subsidies. These transactions are free and only official government agencies provide federal scholarships or grants.

Don’t believe false job offers. Many scammers use websites that look like they’re associated with the government to post jobs and offer guaranteed employment in exchange for money. Do not send money or reveal personal and confidential information to people who hand out brochures or study materials for job placement exams. Job applications in all government departments are free.

File a complaint

If you have been scammed or you suspect someone is committing fraud, register a complaint or get in touch with the FTC at 1-877-382-4357.

When filing a complaint you may be asked for the following information:

  • Date, time and phone number of the call you received
  • Name, website or email address of the organization that contacted you
  • The amount of money and form of payment that the scammer requested
  • Other pertinent details and information

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