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


Be “In The Know” When The Wind Blows!

With the arrival of hurricane season, some of our clients are expressing concern about cruising during severe weather. We  want to provide you with most current information to help allay your concerns.

• Cruise Lines make the safety of its guests, crew and vessels their highest priority.

• Unlike other vacation settings, by virtue of being a completely mobile vacation, cruising allows passengers to continue their vacations by altering itineraries should Mother Nature intervene.

• Modern cruise ships feature technologically-advanced weather forecasting systems that enable them to reposition a ship well in advance of significant weather-related disturbances.

• In the event that ports of embarkation and debarkation are closed due to severe weather conditions, cruise lines can use a nearby alternative port. In these cases, cruise lines coordinate the logistics of loading food and supplies and getting passengers to and from the original port.

• Be mindful that cruise lines can change an itinerary in order to keep out of
harm’s way. Safety always remains the first priority. Travelers should monitor cruise line Web sites and contact their travel agent for modifications to itineraries prior to finalizing travel.

• The purchase of travel insurance, always an important element of any vacation, assumes additional significance in instances of severe weather.

        
New Pillow, Blanket Fees

In-flight napping will cost you. JetBlue announces a new $7 charge for pillows and blankets.

JetBlue Airways Corp. said Monday it is now charging customers for pillows and blankets.

The carrier has done away with the recycled blankets and pillows used on its flights and has started offering an "eco-friendly" travel blanket and pillow that can be purchased for $7 on flights longer than two hours. The pair come in a kit with a $5 coupon to home furnishings retailer Bed Bath & Beyond.

The carrier claims the pillow and blanket feature a fabric technology, developed by CleanBrands LLC, that blocks pesky critters like dust mites, mold spores, pollen and pet dander.

JetBlue already offers free "Snooze Kits" on overnight flights from the West that include an eyeshade and ear plugs.

But the blanket and pillow kit is the latest in a string of a la carte items the company says are providing a revenue boost to help offset the soaring price of jet fuel.

A JetBlue spokeswoman declined to predict how much the sale of these kits will bring in, saying that the company only provides revenue details for specific items in its quarterly earnings conference calls.

The carrier said last month it expects to collect about $40 million from customers buying seats with extra leg room this year. Its $15 fee for a second checked bag is expected to translate into about $20 million in additional revenue. A ticket change fee, which doubled to $100 in the second quarter, is part of a "basket of fee changes" expected to produce about $50 million in extra revenue in 2008.

   
Airline shrinkage to make seats scarce this fall

The major airlines are considering a plan that would cut 60 million seats from flights by Christmas

 

Where do we go from here?
Although the airlines always pull down service in the fall, the current situation is, in the words of industry observers, “extreme,” “unprecedented,” and a sign of a fundamental shift in the industry. Often considered the unofficial end of the summer travel season, September 2 may also signal the start of a new era. Among the changes:
 

  • Fewer options, more inconvenience: In addition to fewer flights overall, many travelers will find that non-stop service is either prohibitively expensive or non-existent. Instead, the prognosis is for more connecting flights — and the long layovers and lost luggage that come with them.
  • Less service: Fewer flights mean fewer employees — and the job cuts go beyond pilots and flight attendants. According to ATA, the U.S. airline industry will shed 36,000 jobs this year, a drop of between 12 and 15 percent, and second only to the cuts made after September 11. Most of this year’s cuts will take place post-Labor Day, which means even less service in the terminals, on the phone and in flight.
  • Fewer delays: Maybe it’s irrationally exuberant, but with fewer planes in the sky, on-time performance will likely improve (at least until winter weather kicks in). Unfortunately, there’s a flip side: when things do go bad, and flights get canceled, there will be fewer options for rebooking.
  • No relief from la carte fees: Despite continuing concerns, there are indications that the airline industry is actually reaching an equilibrium vis--vis oil prices and profitability. Lower oil prices ($115 this week), previous fare increases and the proliferation of add-on fees for every service and amenity are all helping staunch the flow of red ink. Even so, and regardless of where oil prices end up, the airlines aren’t about to give up the billions they expect to bank from la carte pricing.

Whether all of the above constitutes a new era or merely another turn in a highly cyclical industry is ultimately a matter of degree. On the one hand, the idea of frequent flights to diverse destinations at mass-market prices will probably go the way of free meals in coach. On the other, and despite the increased cost and inconvenience, millions of people will continue to fly, wincing as they pay more to fly in a smaller, potentially more stable industry.

  
Drinking Water Safety

Nothing ruins a good trip like getting sick -- and we're not talking about a few extra bathroom stops. Contaminated drinking water is one of the leading sources of health problems for travelers, and can cause anything from mild gastrointestinal distress to serious bacterial diseases.

The most common cause of water-borne illness is bacteria, such as E. coli, cholera and salmonella, but illness can also be caused by protozoa (including giardia and cryptosporidium), viruses (like hepatitis A, polio and rotavirus) and chemical pollutants.

The best way to protect yourself is to avoid local tap water and instead seek out bottled water; when that's not available, boiling tap water generally kills most micro-organisms, and there are a number of good water filters and purification tablets that can easily be stowed in your carry-on. Read on for tips on how to keep yourself safe, healthy and well-hydrated on your next trip.

Know the Risks
Mexico is well known for its contaminated water (Montezuma's revenge, anyone?), but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), travelers also face high risk in Central America, most of Africa and Asia, and the Middle East. You'll find moderate levels of risk in Eastern Europe, Russia, South Africa, Argentina, Chile and some parts of the Caribbean (including Haiti and the Dominican Republic). Drinking water is generally safest in developed areas of the world like the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Northern and Western Europe, many parts of the Caribbean, and Japan.

Keep in mind that water quality may vary depending on where you are in a particular country. For example, in Costa Rica you'll probably find safe tap water at a major city hotel, but you may have to boil water before drinking it if you're staying in a small rural village. If you're not sure, consult a reliable guidebook or ask your Travel Agent before you leave.

So-called developed countries aren't necessarily risk-free; cryptosporidium outbreaks have appeared in the U.S. Midwest and Northwest, as well as in highly populated cities in Australia. Giardia has been found in the water supply in St. Petersburg, Russia. Check the CDC's Web site to see region-specific health info.

Some cities may advertise their drinking water as being chlorinated, but this doesn't necessarily mean that the water is contaminant-free. Your best approach when faced with potentially unsafe drinking water is avoidance.

What to Drink and Not Drink

  Bottled water is generally safe, but only in sealed, tamper-proof containers. Ask someone at your hotel to recommend a reliable local brand.

  In addition to bottled water, you'll usually be safe drinking tea, coffee, canned soda and juice, beer, wine, and other alcoholic drinks.

  Prolonged exposure to higher temperatures will kill many parasites. Drinking from a hot water bottle is slightly safer than drinking untreated cold water.

  You don't need to drink contaminated water to be exposed; always consider alternate sources of exposure, like the water you use to brush your teeth, or to wash your contact lenses or dentures. Be sure to use bottled, boiled or purified water for these purposes as well.

  Freezing water does not kill bacteria. A margarita on the rocks may sound appealing, but ice cubes present the same problem that tap water does. You can make your own ice if you boil the water first.

  Avoid food that may have been rinsed in contaminated water, such as salad and fresh fruit

Water Purification Tactics

Boiling water is generally the most effective way to remove parasite contamination. Maintain a rolling boil for at least one minute (longer at higher altitudes, where the boiling point may be lower). Let the water cool itself slowly without adding ice. Allow any sediments and particles to settle before drinking, and then decant the water from the top into another container.

Commercially available iodine or chlorine tablets kill bacteria and viruses, but are ineffective against some protozoa (like cryptosporidium). Iodine is the more effective of the two solutions, but is not recommended for long-term use, especially by pregnant women or travelers with a history of thyroid problems. Potable Aqua, composed of the iodine compound tetraglycine hydroperiodide, is the most popular brand of water purification tablet. Read directions on all tablets systems for tablet-water ratios and dissolving times; 20 minutes or more may be required for the tablets to dissolve completely, especially in colder water.   If you do not have tablets, two drops of common chlorine bleach in a quart of water will help as a last resort.

The SteriPEN uses ultraviolet light to kill bacteria, viruses and protozoa. It's portable, effective and powered by AA batteries, making it convenient to bring just about anywhere. Its relatively hefty price tag is worth it if you frequently visit areas with questionable water quality, particularly if you plan an extended stay.

Outdoor stores like Cabela's carry water filters and purification systems. It is essential that the filter system you choose is suited to your needs. A filter with an insufficiently small pore size, or one that is not designed to filter viruses, may permit some contaminants to get through. The most effective strategy is to buy a system that combines filtering with chemical purification -- or make one yourself by using both a filter and an iodine treatment.

  For more tips on making water safe to drink, visit the CDC's Web site.

What to Do If You Get Sick
Symptoms of water-borne illness generally include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, fever, aches and/or chills, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). These symptoms will usually clear up on their own after a few days; if they worsen or are very severe, seek medical attention. Otherwise, try to stay hydrated with sports drinks, boiled or bottled water, or other safe fluids (steer clear of alcohol and caffeinated beverages, both of which can make dehydration worse). Oral rehydration salts and anti-diarrheal medications may also be helpful.

When to Damn the Torpedoes
If the locals are drinking the tap water without ill effect, there is no known occurrence of giardiasis, and you are going to be staying in one location for four weeks or more, you may want to drink the water to allow your body time to acquire some of the local microbes. Start slowly and allow your body time to adapt.


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


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