Welcome to the April 2008 issue of "Smart Traveler". The newsletter with tips and information to help make your traveling smoother.


10 Smart Travel Tips for Families

Insure Your Airport Experiences Are Quick and Easy

A very busy summer air travel season is forecast, as rising gas prices send many families to their destinations by plane this year. Full flights are anticipated, making planning ahead essential.



1. Make plane reservations as soon as possible to lock in current inexpensive fares. As fuel prices increase, airfares will also.

2. Select seats when you make the reservation - this is the only way to ensure that you will be seated together. Waiting until you arrive at the airport will scatter each of your family members throughout the plane, or will require asking other passengers to accommodate you by moving seats when they are trying to get settled themselves.

3. Print boarding passes before leaving for the airport. This option is generally available 24 hours in advance of the flight and will save standing in a check-in line at the airport.

4. Pack light. Many airlines are charging $25 each way for a second checked bag (most still allow one checked bag at no additional charge). Plus they also charge big fees that vary between airlines for checked bags weighing 50 pounds or more. Weigh each bag at home on a bathroom scale before leaving for the airport so you can lighten the load. Also measure each bag before packing as no bag may be over 62” based on linear measurement of length + width + depth. Larger bags may incur a large fee.

5. Take less. Organize what each family member wants to pack far in advance to allow time to wash favorite things and to encourage participation by each person. This minimizes complaints upon arrival, as each was part of the packing decisions. Plan to find a coin-operated laundry half way through the trip so you can pack half as much clothing. Tucking in a self-sealing plastic bag of laundry detergent saves money and hassles.

6. Self-sealing bags of several sizes are the travelers' best friend! Organize clothing by grouping adult’s items: socks in one container, underwear in another. Children’s clothing is easily organized by folding or rolling an entire days outfit together — pants, tee-shirt, underwear and socks — and tucking into a bag. Pop the dirty items back into the bag at the end of the day to isolate soiled clothing from clean.

7. Pack into as few suitcases as possible - the more bags the greater the chance that one will be misplaced or forgotten. Plus, a hefty fee may be charged for additional checked bags. Some airlines now allow only one checked bag plus one carry-on per ticketed passenger (young children who ride on a parent’s lap are NOT considered “ticketed”). Many families pack into community bags of one adult with one child per bag, for a family of four this means two checked bags plus carry-on.

8. Travel with your child’s safety seats and strollers whenever possible. Each airline has a slightly different ruling on traveling with this gear, so call or visit your airline website to check in advance so you won’t have any surprises at the airport.

9. Pack a backpack for each person. Parents can manage children better if they are hands-free, so purses and in-flight necessities are best carried in an adult backpack. Kids fly quieter when entertained, so allow them to choose their toys and to carry them. Smaller children manage better passing through airports, airport security, and aircraft aisles with small backpacks; bigger children can manage small rolling bags that will fit under the seat.

10. Savvy frequent flyer parents advise bringing on the following in your child’s carry-on:

• Gameboys, games and extra batteries and travel-sized games • Books (thin paperbacks are best!) and/or coloring/activity books and crayons • Portable DVD player (however battery length is usually only about 3 hours) • Pajamas and slippers for a long flight (if comfortable, children are more likely to sleep) • Hard candies to suck on, water or juice to combat pressure changes during take off and landing • Anything your child must have such as a favorite blanket or bunny.

Packing light will spare your back and your budget and minimize baggage hassles. Plan ahead, take less, and have a great vacation!

       
Revealing Body Scanners 
Used in N.Y., L.A.

Screeners can peer beneath clothing to detect concealed weapons
 

Airports in New York and Los Angeles have become the latest equipped with body scanners that allow security screeners to peer beneath a passenger's clothing to detect concealed weapons. The machines, which are about the size of a revolving door, use low-energy electromagnetic waves to produce a computerized image of a traveler's entire body.

Passengers step in and lift their arms. The scans only take a minute, and Transportation Security Administration officials say the procedure is less invasive than a physical frisk for knives, bombs or guns. Someday, the "millimeter wave" scans might replace metal detectors, but for now they are being used selectively.

Los Angeles International Airport and John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York saw their first scanners installed Thursday, each at a single checkpoint. Phoenix Sky-Harbor International Airport got one of the machines in October. Modest travelers may have concerns about the images. The black and white, three-dimensional scans aren't as vivid as a photograph, but they do reveal some of the more intimate curves of the human form, maybe with as much clarity as an impressionist sculpture by Auguste Rodin.

The system comes with privacy protections. Officers reviewing the images don't interact with passengers, or even see them. They sit in a separate area, look at the pictures on a monitor and push a button to either clear travelers or alert security about a suspicious item. Images will not be recorded or stored. Passenger faces are blurred to further protect their identities.

For now, the scans will also be voluntary. Flyers selected for a secondary screening after passing through the metal detectors will have the option of stepping into the wave scanner, rather than undergoing a physical pat-down.

Millimeter wave scanners, which cost as much as $120,000 apiece, are already in limited use at international airports in seven countries and at a handful of courthouses and jails in five states. Their introduction to U.S. airports is on a trial basis while authorities evaluate their effectiveness. The TSA said the devices pose no health risk and project 10,000 times less energy than a cell phone transmission.

 
10 Tips To Get Through Customs

Knowledge and preparation can help get you through line quicker

Here are some tips for getting through customs and immigration without too much fuss and aggravation.

1. If you know you will have a tight connection when you land in the States, leave the flowers and produce behind. Agriculture inspection can add an hour to your re-entry time.

2. Always carry a photocopy of your passport, and keep it separate from your passport. Some officials will accept the copy or at least give you an easier time if you misplace the original.

3. Turn off your cell phone. Customs and immigration officials are strict on that rule; in fact, they will confiscate your phone and not return it if they catch you using it. The reasons for this are unclear, but can you imagine the sound of 500 people on their cell phones at the same time? What a nightmare.

4. Don’t make wisecracks or jokes to the officials; it makes you look like you are trying to hide something.

5. Read your customs forms carefully, and fill them out as soon as you get them. There is a complete guide to filling out your forms along with a list of contraband items in the back of your in-flight magazine.

6. If you are unsure about whether to declare something, declare it. The “Gee, I didn’t know ...” excuse won’t work.

7. Don’t make a scene if the wait gets long or your bags get a thorough going-over. You definitely won’t make your connecting flight if you are sent to secondary screening.

8. If you are uncomfortable with an agent of the opposite sex searching through your luggage, ask for an official of the same sex. It’s a standard request and perfectly legitimate.

9. Don’t put any fruit in your bag during your vacation if you can help it. You may have eaten that sack of mangos a week ago, but the persistent aroma will have the fruit dog all over your bag and you will be delayed in the agriculture inspection.

10. Leave any compromising photos or videos of you and a partner at home. They could be confiscated as pornography and wind up on a “wall of shame” in some back office.

  
Tips for Buying Travel Insurance

 
Travel insurance can protect you from substantial losses that result from a variety of situations, including canceled trips, lost baggage, medical emergencies, supplier defaults, as well as other unforeseen circumstances.

TYPES OF TRAVEL INSURANCE COVERAGE

There are several general types of consumer travel insurance available. The coverage and limitations of each will vary depending on the insurance company issuing the policy. The following is a brief description of some of the general types of travel insurance.

Trip Cancellation: The most important and common type of travel insurance. Generally covers non-refundable payments or deposits if a trip is canceled or interrupted due to unforeseen circumstances.

Trip Delay: Provides reimbursement for expenses incurred when a trip is delayed.

Accident/Sickness Medical Expenses: Covers costs incurred due to injury or illness that occur while on a trip.

Medical Evacuation/Emergency Transportation: Covers transportation when a medical emergency while traveling requires transportation to a hospital or other medical facility.

Supplier Default: Covers deposits or payments lost due to the financial default of a travel supplier.

Baggage/Personal Effects Loss or Delay: Covers losses due to items lost, damaged or delayed during a trip.

SUPPLIER PROVIDED COVERAGE VS. THIRD PARTY INSURANCE COMPANIES

Many travel vendors (tour companies and cruise lines) offer their own protection plans and these plans may provide very different coverage than offered through third party insurance companies. In most cases, supplier-provided coverage won't cover you in the event they go bankrupt. When considering a supplier protection plan, you should carefully compare the coverage with third-party travel insurance products.

Who should buy travel insurance?
Travelers who want to protect their travel investment should consider purchasing travel insurance. If an illness, accident or sudden change in plans forces you to cancel or interrupt travel plans, you face two major financial losses - money you've invested in nonrefundable prepayments, and medical expenses that aren't covered by your health insurance.

How does trip cancellation coverage work?
It is designed to reimburse you for forfeited, nonrefundable, unused payments or deposits if you have to cancel your interrupt your trip due to a variety of situations, including but not limited to inclement weather, illness or another unforeseen event.

Depending on your policy, it may also cover:

  • Emergency medical expenses
  • Transportation ordered by a doctor to the nearest adequate
    medical facility
  • Reasonable accommodations and travel expenses for travel delays
  • Essential items you purchase if your baggage is delayed
  • Lost or stolen luggage

How much does travel insurance cost?
The cost of travel insurance varies from company and policy to policy. The more you have invested in your trip, the more you need to protect it. Travel insurance covers you for losses caused by trip cancellation and interruption, medical expenses, baggage, trip and baggage delay. When you consider all the protection you get, travel insurance is actually a great value.

Where do you buy travel insurance?
Most travel agents offer travel insurance and many may even require customers that decline insurance to sign a waiver form.


Remember: Without a travel agent you're on your own


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