Why You Should Travel With Your Friends

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Before you can even start the process of planning your next trip, you must first make one vital decision: will you be traveling solo or with your friends?

This is a question that, to the surprise of some, has become very controversial. Solo travelers would argue that to truly experience a trip, it should be experienced alone. It is more intimidating traveling on your own, especially if you don’t travel frequently, but these individuals would proclaim that, because it is more challenging and frightening, it is better for you. Travelers who prefer adventuring with others would argue that sharing your experiences allows you to experience your trip in a more well-rounded way. To them, traveling with more people is challenging because you are attempting to engage in a variety of activities while trying to make the majority happy.

While there is a lot that can be said for both sides of the argument – and perhaps you should strive to have a balance of both throughout your lifetime – traveling with your friends has its undeniable perks.

Planning the trip is more exciting.

If you travel with your friends, you do not have to shoulder the responsibility of planning out every single activity on your own. There is a lot of research that goes into the planning phase; you would be surprised at how lengthy and complex the planning process can get if you do it alone. If you involve your friends, everyone will want to bring ideas to the table. In the midst of this excitement, the most difficult part will be picking and choosing what activities to include on your itinerary – and you may get to experience something you may have never found on your own.

Splitting costs helps save everyone money.

Whether you plan to stay at hotels or crash at places you have rented through Airbnb, it is going to be much cheaper splitting the costs between more people. Because you have a larger group, you may end up staying at more beautiful, spacious places. And, instead of ending every day in silence, you will have people to process your adventures with.

The more people in your group, the more safe you are.

One drawback to traveling alone is that it can be quite nerve-racking. You are in an unfamiliar setting and, even with navigation apps, it is frightening trying to maneuver around foreign places. With friends, you are less likely to find yourself in a compromising situation. And you don’t have to worry about your belongings when you need to take a quick bathroom break.

You will always have these memories.

Traveling will provide you with long-lasting memories that you will remember for the rest of your life. Traveling with your friends may not only give you more experiences throughout your trip, but your friends will always have these memories to share with you. Other people may love hearing your stories, but your friends were actually there to experience them with you.

Originally published on Emmanuel Ventouris’ website.

The Best Security Measures Against Hackers And Viruses

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Often, individuals who are not high profile don’t feel it is particularly necessary to invest in a high level of data security because they don’t feel they have anything to protect. Ironically, that makes them perfect targets. If you so much as have a reasonable credit score or simply the ability to open accounts or make purchases based on your credit score, you have something to protect. If you own a computer, you have something valuable to protect against viruses.

Here are 4 ways to protect your data and your electronics from hackers and viruses:

1. Secure your wireless network.

Change the name on your router and the pre-generated password. First, you don’t want people to know what your network is so change the name to something that has nothing to do with you. For example, don’t name your network “Smith Home” if your last name is Smith. Secondly, hackers know the default passwords on a number of different types and brands of routers, so if you don’t change yours, hacking into your network is a breeze. Use a network firewall and WPA2 access. A firewall will block intruders from your individual machine and WPA2 offers the strongest level of protection available for most commercial routers.

2. Install anti-virus software from a reputable provider.

There is no limit to the number of sources through which a virus can be introduced into your system. Some individuals do this just for a sick thrill, some for revenge, and some will choose to hold your computer hostage until you pay a fee to have it unlocked. Anti-virus software will protect you from a wide variety of virus sources.

3. Turn on auto-update.

Internet providers and software developers react quickly when new threats occur to release updates to protect against them. This doesn’t do you any good, however, if you don’t get the updates installed quickly.

4. Back up all of your data regularly.

One of the best ways to deal with a virus is to wipe your hard drive (or SSD) and reinstall everything. But don’t wait to backup your data after you have a virus. You are just backing up your virus along with all your important information. There are a number of options available that will backup your devices wirelessly and store several days or weeks worth of backups for you. You can “set it and forget it” and if you need to wipe your drive and reinstall, you can retrieve a backup that was made before you got a virus.

Originally published on Emmanuel Ventouris’ website.

Airbnb Etiquette: Before, During, And After

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Staying at an Airbnb is like staying at a home away from home. Depending on your budget or what is available in the surrounding areas during your trip, you can rent out spaces that range from an entire home to a spare bedroom in someone’s house. What makes staying at an Airbnb even better than a hotel – aside from the comparatively more affordable prices – is that you will treated to a more personalized experience.

A superior Airbnb host will dedicate their time and energy into generating the most pleasurable experience for their guests. And because they are locals, it may be more advantageous to consult your host to help fill your itinerary rather than Google since they should be more familiar with the local hot spots around the area. Are you new to the concept of Airbnb? Here are some basic etiquette techniques to practice before, during, and after your stay:

Before

Read The Reviews

Because you are dealing with individual people, every host will run their Airbnb differently. Use the reviews of previous guests as a way to judge the temperament of the host to determine whether or not it would be a good fit for you. These reviews can also be used as guidebook for how to conduct yourself during your stay.

Send An Introductory Message

This is not a requirement, but it is a nice pleasantry. You are not dealing with a customer service representative from a hotel, so reach out and introduce yourself to the person whose house you will be staying in. Building a good relationship at the onset may improve your trustworthiness in the eyes of the host.

During

Be Punctual

Respect the arrival and departure times that the host has set in place. Situations arise that often cause us to run late, but try to prepare for the unexpected in advance so that you can be as punctual as possible. If something does come up, don’t leave your host in the dark – contact them as soon as possible.

Abide By The House Rules

There may be some house rules that you aren’t accustomed to as part of your daily routine but, by agreeing to rent a certain space, you are also agreeing to a host’s policies. Keep your surroundings as clean as possible, keep your volume at a reasonable level, and be considerate of any curfews.

After

Paying

This is simple: pay the allotted amount and never ask to pay in cash.

Leave A Review

Some people use Airbnb as an additional source of income. If you enjoyed your stay, vocalize it online, being as detailed as possible. Your review could be the reason someone decides to rent the same space in the future.

Really, Airbnb etiquette is simply treating the space you rented how you would want a guest to treat your own home.

Originally published on Emmanuel Ventouris’ website.

Organizing Your Business Finances

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Tax season is upon us! It may seem like the deadline is still a distant speck in the horizon, but we all know that’s not true. There is always ample prep work that needs to be completed before important financial information can be recorded into the necessary tax forms. Even if you plan to hire someone else to do the brunt of your taxes for you, there is still information that you need to first compile in order for them to accurately fill out the correct paperwork.

Avoid the horrid tax headaches by making the organization of your business’ finances a top priority. Here are a few strategies that have helped entrepreneurs and business owners avoid the dreaded chaos around tax season:

Talk to a professional.

Unless accounting is your field of expertise, there is just some information that you won’t be well-versed in – that’s what the professionals are for. So many entrepreneurs and business owners think that they are doing themselves a financial favor by saving money and doing their taxes independently. What many people don’t realize is that, while they might not owe extra money out-of-pocket every year, they could still be losing money. Accountants are cognizant of various deductions and credits that you may be eligible for that you wouldn’t think to opt for on your own.

Set aside time in your schedule.

You have a schedule for all of your important meetings, phone calls, and tasks. Use your schedule as an aid for staying on top of your finances as well. Formally set aside a chunk of time every week – this can be anywhere between 10-20 minutes – to sit down and organize your finances. Not only will you be more aware of the day-to-day of your business’ finances, but everything will be in order come tax season. Being prepared will prevent you from fumbling around for weeks trying to organize everything on time.

Keep track of who you are paying.

This may seem like an obvious strategy, but you would be surprised at how many entrepreneurs or business owners are not keeping careful tabs on labor. The main costs that you should be mindful of are wages, benefits, and any overtime costs. By tracking this information, you could find that you have extra money to play around with in your budget or, on the other hand, you could find that you have been overspending and need to cut back.

Separate your personal finances from your business finances.

In some cases this is mandatory, but it’s great to get in the habit of this even if you are a sole proprietor. Applying for a business credit card and opening up a separate checking/savings account for your business will help you keep better track of your finances when it comes time to report it.

This might feel a little time-consuming at first, but you will start to find how easy managing your finances can be once you start making these good practices a habit.

Originally published on Emmanuel Ventouris’ website.

The Rainy Day Guidebook For Vacationing In Athens

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What do planning a vacation and planning a wedding have in common? The planner is adamantly opposed to rain ruining their agenda.

It’s impossible to make plans around the weather. It is unpredictable and subject to change at a moment’s notice, even if the forecast foretells a different story. Greece is renowned for its sunshine but, like any travel destination, there is a chance you could be visiting during a dreary time where rain (or snow) forces you to adjust your plans for a day, or even a few days.

Don’t let a little rain in Athens ruin your vacation. Sitting in your room and waiting for the rain to subside is wasted time that could be spent exploring the big city. Use the rain as a time to explore some amazing spaces that might not have made your final “Things To Do In Athens” list.

Grab a cup of coffee and watch the rain fall.

The Greeks take their coffee drinking very seriously. These coffee breaks can last quite a long time, averaging around 1.5 hours, and are meant to encourage people to unwind in silence with their favorite book or spend time catching up with a friend. Grab your umbrella and find a local spot near you and enjoy a warm beverage or tasty treat while watching the rain fall. For the avid coffee drinkers, consider trying a traditional Greek coffee. It is brewed in a small pot called a briki and served black with the grounds on the bottom and a unique foam on top.

Visit a museum and immerse yourself in Greek culture.

No matter your interests, there is a museum for you. In order to truly absorb the culture, you could dedicate an entire day just to walking through these museums. The Acropolis Museum, perhaps one of Athen’s most notable and popular museums, was built to exhibit the Parthenon Sculptures. From here, you also have a breathtaking view of the Acropolis. Other museums of note include: the Benaki Museum, the Lalaounis Jewelry Museum, and the National Archaeological Museum of Athens.

Take a break and go shopping.

A little shopping never hurt anyone, especially if the weather is not optimal for exploring the outside beauty of Greece. If the rain is on the lighter side, take your umbrella and walk down Ermou street, which is one of the main shopping attractions in Athens. Also, if you love bargaining for a great deal, you can explore Monastiraki square where you can peruse around the flea market and pick up some mementos from your trip to bring back home.

Catch dinner and a movie.

End your evening with dinner and a movie. Make a reservation at a local restaurant near where you’re staying, enjoy the local cuisine, and then catch a movie at a cinema nearby. Movies are actually played in their original languages, most of which are English, with Greek subtitles so that you can understand them.

Even on a perfect day, these activities would help stamp your trip to Athens, Greece in your mind forever. On days with nicer weather, make sure that you take advantage of as much sightseeing as possible. But be sure to put these plans on your itinerary and save them for when bad weather strikes or for the end of your vacation.

Originally published on Emmanuel Ventouris’ website.

Why Your Tax Refund Could Be Delayed This Year

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Prepare yourselves! In the next couple of months, you are going to start hearing more and more “tax talk.” Discussions about making sure that you start organizing and gathering all necessary documents and paperwork, pleas for why you should start the filing process as soon as possible so as not to miss the deadline, the list goes on and on.

But it seems as if there is already some talk that has been making its way through the grapevine, even though it is only January. And it’s about your tax refunds.

Most taxpayers excitedly await their refund checks in the mail every year, but the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is warning everyone that they might have to wait a little longer before celebrating their reimbursement this year.

There are a few reasons for this. And while this predicted wait may be disheartening to many, it is for your benefit.

A New Law Takes Effect

Starting this year, taxpayers who are eligible and claim the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and/or the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) on their 2016 returns are the ones who this delay will affect. The IRS stresses that this delay won’t be ludicrous and are adamant that most refunds will be issued within the normal 21 day waiting period that they already give citizens.

Their warning is more pertinent for the people who file early and, as a result, typically get their refunds a few weeks before everyone else. However, there were some cases last year where it took up to 18 weeks for some individuals to receive their full refunds.

Why the delay?

You can thank the scam artists for this new law that was put into effect. Because of these two credits, which are fully refundable, the IRS has seen a spike in attempted fraud. This new law regulates that they hold the refunds of people who claim the EITC or ACTC until mid-February so that the agency has adequate time to detect and prevent fraud before distributing the money. Unfortunately, this attempt to combat fraud and increase security means that you will have to face a minor delay.

But what if you don’t want to wait for your tax refund?

There is a solution that will help you avoid this potential delay, but it involves making a change on your taxes. If you modify your tax withholding for the year, you will receive more money throughout the year in your paychecks, but it means that you won’t pocket as much of a sum when you get your tax refund back. This is entirely up to your discretion, of course. If you would rather have more money withheld throughout the year because you look forward to a larger refund, than the IRS just wants to remind you not to be shocked or disgruntled if it takes a few more weeks.

Whether you have heard this news yet or not, I hope this helps to explain the methods being put into place to help fight back against scam artists and identity fraud and how these changes may affect you personally.

Originally published on Emmanuel Ventouris’ website.