Storing your account names, user names and passwords. Also, Gatwick Express ticket sales

By David Tykol
This item appears on page 2 of the February 2012 issue.

Dear Globetrotter:

Welcome to the 432nd issue of your monthly foreign travel magazine, the original travelers’ forum.

Athabasca Falls in Jasper National Park, Alberta, western Canada.

While traveling, situations may arise in which you need to have someone access a password-protected account of yours on the Internet.

Perhaps you are in a place with phone service but no Internet access and must retrieve information from an e-mail on your home computer. You may be sick or injured and someone needs to retrieve your private medical records for you. Maybe you want access to financial records or a bank account to clear up an unexpected hold on funds but you just can’t remember your password.

To prevent frustration, mix-ups and possible legal hassles, consider finding safe and reliable ways to store a list of all of your accounts, user names and passwords.

Without your account names, user names and passwords, most companies cannot give access to your online accounts to other people, even in an emergency and even if someone can prove that he or she is a family member or spouse. Even with a “power of attorney,” it can be a lengthy process.

On a grimmer note, you also should consider adding a statement to your will authorizing access to your online accounts by your executor. Many online companies cannot release any information without that legal permission.

There are low-tech and high-tech solutions to storing passwords and user names, and some methods are more secure than others.

Do not make a list of accounts and passwords and tape it to your computer at home. Do not carry such a list in your wallet or purse or even in a money pouch. Do not list your passwords in an unencrypted document file and save it on your computer at home.

The following are more SECURE methods.

• Make a list of accounts, user names and passwords and give it to your lawyer or someone you trust.

(On your person and/or in your luggage, it is wise to keep the names of any people who should be contacted if you have an emergency. Include the contact info for the person you’ve given your password list to.)

• Make a list and leave it in a bank’s safe-deposit box or in a safe in your home. (Give the box key or safe’s combination to your lawyer or someone you trust.)

• Store your passwords in an encrypted program, either online or on a USB flash drive that you can take with you. There are many encryption programs available. LastPass is pretty well regarded in Internet circles. KeePass and KeyWallet are two more examples.

• Store your account passwords in an online “safe-deposit box.” That is, you pay a company to keep the information safe in a single account for which you need only one password.

There are several companies that can store all your password information (and sometimes secure documents) online for a fee (monthly, annually or lifetime); you can access your information over the Internet and with some smartphones. 1Password is a well-established firm. RoboForm and Password Vault are examples of others.

There are also companies that sort out all the access issues and set up a process according to your wishes. Here are a few:,, and

When using software or online services to store private information, remember that your data is only as secure as the program or company you use. These are attractive programs for hackers to break into, so make sure you can trust the company you choose. Check out the reputation of each online or through the BBB, etc.

Note that if you have a weak master password on any of these services, then all of your accounts can be compromised.

To create a cryptographically strong (i.e., not easily crackable) password, use both upper- and lower-case letters plus numbers and special characters like parentheses, ampersands and dollar signs. Ideally, passwords should be eight characters or more and should not contain any names or words that would be in a dictionary.

It can be tough to come up with such a password that is easy to remember, but one way is to think of a sentence that’s personally meaningful, like “In 1979 I rode the Orient-Express to Vladivostok.” Using the first letter of each word and the punctuation, you end up with the cryptographically strong password “i79IrtO-EtV.”

Remember, if you change a password and don’t record the new one on your list, it will be useless. Before traveling, and even regularly, check that your list is up to date.

Attention, Anglophiles. For the train Gatwick Express, which travels nonstop between England’s Gatwick Airport and (in central London) Victoria Station, eight new ticket gates were installed in December, and only passengers with train tickets in hand will be able to pass the gates. This means there is no longer an option for passengers to buy tickets once on board the train.

Passengers also need to hang onto their tickets so that they can exit through the gate upon arrival.

Tickets can be prepurchased online (where special offers are available) or bought at ticket machines and manned ticket offices at both the Victoria and Gatwick Airport stations. Also, the airlines EasyJet and Virgin Atlantic sell tickets for the train route to passengers while in flight.

For more info, contact Gatwick Express (Bristol, UK; phone 0845 850 1530 or, from overseas, +44 208 528 2900).

In my November ’11 column, I loosely described the tipping policies of a number of major cruise lines. Everett Angell of High Bridge, New Jersey, read the lists and wrote, “I wonder why you didn’t mention Vantage Deluxe World Travel (800/322-6677) in the category ‘River cruise and barge companies.’ I used them once in 2010 and am booked for their 2011 Christmas and New Year’s run on the Rhine and Danube and again next summer for a lower Danube cruise in Eastern Europe.

“Their gratuity policy is to recommend daily rates for their onboard Program Managers, who are to be paid directly in cash, while there is an all-in-one gratuities pool for the shipboard staff. The amount to the pool fund can be charged to the cabin account and paid either in cash or by credit card.”

That omission was just an oversight, Everett. While Vantage Travel charters a few vessels, it does own at least one other and should have been included in the list. Depending on your definition of a cruise line, there may be many others as well.

With recent inquiries, I am finding that even some longtime subscribers are not aware that ITN does, indeed, cover destinations in Canada. The confusion is understandable.

For many years, this magazine did not cover places in North America or the Caribbean. In his August 2009 column, however, after asking subscribers for their opinions on whether or not to include Mexico and the Caribbean in our coverage, the publisher announced, “The ayes have it,” and indicated that we would expand coverage.

From that issue on, ITN has mentioned in its masthead (page 2), on its subscription page (page 9), in the intro to Travelers’ Intercom and on our website that “ITN prints articles, letters and news items about destinations outside of the United States.”

We only exclude items about domestic destinations.

Nick Anderson of Windom, Minnesota, wrote, “I have been a subscriber for about 10 years, and the article written by Carol Probst (“Off-season in Sardinia,” Dec. ’11, pg. 44) was the most enjoyable article I have read in that time.”

Carol wrote about enjoying a self-drive trip in Italy despite several mishaps (being given poor directions to the resort and getting lost, etc.).

Nick continued: “We all have had experiences similar to theirs, though maybe not as many on one trip. I enjoyed reading how they handled each experience with aplomb. After all, that is part of what traveling is about.

“Please pass along to Ms. Probst how much I enjoyed the article and that I wish them a hassle-free experience on their next journey.”

I have done so, Nick. Thanks for letting us know.

Sound the trumpets! It’s been a long time in preparation, but we now offer, in addition to the printed magazine, an online version of ITN featuring the most recent monthly issues.

ITN has had a website for years, but until now only a few selected items have been posted from issues published within the previous year. That website will still be accessible to nonsubscribers, but now nearly all of the content from even the most recent editions of the magazine are available to be viewed, along with full-color photos, on a separate website accessible to subscribers.

This will be welcome news to people living outside of the US who enjoy ITN. The overseas postage rates for magazines have skyrocketed, but now non-US residents can subscribe to read ITN online at a rate comparable to that of subscribers within the US — and without the long wait for delivery.

We will continue to publish the printed magazine as well, and current subscribers who get the magazine in the mail each month will have access to the online edition at no extra cost. To set up your online-edition account, you only need to know your seven-digit subscriber number, shown on the address label on your delivered copy.

Note: the print edition contains more content than is posted in the online edition. For one thing, there is a wider range of advertisements than there is online, and the print ads contain more information (about upcoming tours, etc.) than the ads on the website. Also missing in each online edition are The MART classifieds, the “Person to Person” section, the Tours page (for now), The Geografile and the Crossword Puzzle. But we’ll be adding features over time.

All of you who visit our website regularly, let our Web Designer, Arthur Hanna (, know about anything that needs attention or tweaking on our revamped site. Minor adjustments will need to be made and we will appreciate your input — as well as your patience as we get the kinks worked out.

To help with your trip planning, the website’s searchable archive, which now spans nearly seven years of issues, continues to be offered to the public for free, along with other special features.

For more details about the online edition, visit the FAQ page

Sadly, I also have bad news.

Saima Wirtanen — half of the writing team who has produced the ITN column “Adventure Travel for the Mildly Adventuresome” since 1988 — passed away in early December. She was surrounded by her family in Pleasant Valley, California.

She had six children and is survived by many grandchildren and great grandchildren and her husband of 61 years, Wayne, who remains a Contributing Editor for ITN. Our condolences to the Wirtanen family.

And, shockingly, in late November, ITN creator and Publisher Armond Noble learned that he has cancer. He is in a local hospital, and we are praying for his full recovery.

His wife, Helen, and their longtime and grateful staff are carrying on what Armond started almost 37 years ago, continuing to produce this magazine each month.

Armond is not receiving visitors at this time, but any messages you wish him to receive may be sent to Armond Noble, c/o ITN, 2116 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818, or e-mail