Welcome to the December 2009 issue of "Smart Traveler". The newsletter with tips and information to help make your traveling smoother.
the season...for long lines and frayed nerves. Here's how to cope.
Do yourself a favor and ship
your presents. Nearly every U.S. airline charges
a fee to check a bag, so shipping gifts is now
cheaper and more convenient than carrying them
in your luggage. If you decide to tote your
gifts aboard (we warned you!), don't wrap them
first -- the Transportation Security
Administration reserves the right to open
anything, including the presents you so
Weigh your options
Not knowing what you're going to
pay for your luggage is annoying. So calculate
your overweight-luggage fees at home. You can
scope the fees out in advance by visiting new
Luggage Limits, which provides the latest
info on more than 90 airlines.
Have a drink later
Bottles of wine and gin?
Perfume? Gift baskets? You can't take any of 'em
on through security. Liquids in containers
larger than three ounces are a no-no, and even
three-ouncers must be stored in a single
quart-size, clear bag. You can bring cakes and
pies through airport security, but you may be
subject to additional inspections. For full
rules, go to the
A blue Christmas
Fly nonstop, even if it costs a
little more. The combination of huge crowds and
bad weather is a massive delay waiting to
happen: One big storm and the system backs up,
leaving you and all the others stranded. And
that's a terrible way to spend the holiday.
Cut your wait time
During the holidays, the longest
lines at airports aren't at security; they're at
check-in. You can usually check in for a flight
and print your boarding pass 24 hours
beforehand, and you should. If you're checking
bags, pay for them online in advance, too:
You'll save time and money, because airlines
typically charge $5 or more extra if you wait to
pay at the airport.
Pick a prime spot
It's the nightmare scenario: You
get to the airport, and the parking lots are
sold out. You won't have to worry about that as
long as you book a spot in advance at an
off-site parking lot via
airportdiscountparking.com. The best part?
Off-site lots are almost always cheaper and
typically have free shuttles to the terminal.
Leave amateurs in the dust
Trust us and get to the airport
an extra half-hour early. The check-in and
security lines are filled with inexperienced
fliers, and it's a slog. Plus, if you decide to
cut it close you may not get onto the flight at
all. To reduce costs, airlines have dramatically
scaled back on flights and routes. The remaining
flights are more likely to be oversold,
especially on busy travel days. Fliers who check
in early are the least likely to get bumped from
Worried about a flight delay
because of stormy weather? Type your airline's
name and your flight number into a Google search
bar. The site will fetch up-to-date flight
And speaking of Google...
Through January 15, 2010, Google
is giving travelers a holiday present by
sponsoring free Wi-Fi at 54 U.S. airports.
Google is also partnering with Virgin America,
which offers free Wi-Fi on all of its planes
through January 15, too.
Yes, it's a race
Get your bags on the plane
pronto. Fliers don't want to pay fees for
checked bags, and more and more of them are
traveling with just carry-ons. The amount of
space in overhead bins on planes, meanwhile, has
remained the same. To nab a spot for your
carry-on near your seat, get on the plane ASAP
and be ready to store it right away. But don't
elbow anyone. Remember: Santa is watching.
Movies, food, pillows -- it's
hard to keep up with exactly what airlines will
nickel-and-dime you for nowadays. Cut the
guesswork and bring your own amenities,
including snacks, entertainment, and a travel
blanket. A homemade sandwich usually tastes
better than the $7 airline version, anyway.
BYO antibacterial wipes, too
No one wants to get sick,
especially during the holidays, when people
always seem to be fighting colds. Wipe down the
airplane seat-back tray and the armrest, and
anything you'll touch in the plane and airport
Take it public
The rates for renting a car at
the airport have more than doubled over the past
year because rental lot inventories have
decreased dramatically. True, renting at the
airport is convenient, but it's just not worth
it anymore. Unless you really need a car, take
public transportation, hop a cab, or beg a
friend to pick you up at the airport instead.
Say no to bumper cars
people picking you up to avoid parking their car
and instead idle it in the airport's cell-phone
lot. They can hang out in their car for free
while waiting to get a call from you when you
land -- and avoid the usual honking and chaos.
Many airports, including JFK and LAX, now
feature this sensible alternative.
Increase in Travelers
Expected to Pass Through LAX; 208,000 Through ONT During Year-End
Los Angeles International
Airport (LAX) is expected to serve 2.4 million travelers during the
annual year-end holiday travel season that begins Saturday, Dec. 19,
and continues through Saturday, Jan. 2, 2010. This year's
holiday-period total of air travelers is forecast to exceed last
year's comparable period by 1.9 percent due to airlines shifting
their flight schedules resulting in more flights to and from LAX.
At LA/Ontario International Airport (ONT), more than 208,000
passengers are expected this holiday season, a decrease of 7 percent
over last year.
The busiest travel days during this holiday period are expected to
be the three days before Christmas and Jan. 2, when airlines
forecast flights to be nearly 80 percent booked.
Airport officials suggest passengers departing LAX during the daily
peak travel periods - from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m.; from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.;
or from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. - to be in their airline's ticketing
lobbies two hours before domestic flights and three hours before
Travelers at ONT are urged to arrive at the airport 1-1/2 hours
before domestic flights and two hours before international flights
A number of airlines have changed terminal locations since last
year. Midwest Airlines now operates from Terminal 6, while
Aeromexico operates at Terminal 2. Mexicana Airlines is now located
on the Upper/Departures Level at the Tom Bradley International
Terminal (TBIT). Passengers should check with their airline for
their location or visit Los Angeles World Airport's (LAWA) website
Travelers are advised they are not required to give money to
solicitors or anyone appearing as airport employees on the curbside
of terminals wearing badges and street clothes. LAX Ambassadors
wearing red jackets and straw hats inside the terminals provide
complimentary information to travelers in addition to the Airport
guides and Travelers Aid desks located throughout the terminals.
The Volunteer LAX Passenger Assistance Program service initiative
will also be active during this holiday travel season. LAX employees
wearing red vests will provide information and friendly smiles to
passengers at curbside on the Upper/Departures Level on Wednesday,
Dec. 23 and Thursday, Dec. 24.
Holiday cheer will be evident throughout the terminals with Santa
Claus and his elves greeting travelers, the Transportation Security
Administration (TSA) choir singing holiday songs, a Craft Area
available for children, and holiday decorations.
LAX AiRadio 530 AM is the only broadcast source of information on
ground transportation, parking, airline terminal locations and
security. Broadcasts are streamed onto the airport's Internet
website at www.lawa.org.
reLAX public lounge in TBIT at LAX is the only lounge located before
passenger security screening. Travelers can pay $10 for a one-hour
period, $25 for three-hours, $35 for five-hours, and $50 for all day
to use a comfortable and relaxing waiting area, with refreshments
and business services such as wireless internet access, faxing,
photocopying and printing. Hours of operation are 8 a.m. to midnight
daily. For information, visit
New services at Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) airports this
•LAX FlyAway® bus service expanded to Irvine, its fourth location,
at Irvine Station at 15215 Barranca Parkway. This new route is
expected to become as popular as the service from Van Nuys' terminal
at 7610 Woodley Avenue (intersection of Woodley and Saticoy), the
Union Station East Portal at Berth 9 in Patsaouras Transit Plaza,
and from Westwood on Kinross Avenue west of Gayley, adjacent to UCLA
Parking Structure 32. FlyAway fares are $7 each way for adults for
Van Nuys and Union Station; fares are $5 each way for adults for
Westwood; and $25 each way for Irvine. All children age 5 and under
ride free. For more information, visit
•New concessions Pinkberry, Gladstone's 4 Fish, and Petals are now
open at LAX, offering traveler's additional food and service options
with an LA signature. Known for its tart yogurt flavors and
fresh-cut fruit and dry toppings, Pinkberry is located in Terminal
1. Gladstone's 4 Fish, offering menu favorites from its landmark
seafood restaurant in Malibu, is in Terminal 3. Petals flower shop,
located in the Meet and Greet area of TBIT, features a wide
selection of flowers and floral arrangements grown in Southern
Information on all of the services and amenities available to
passengers at LAX and ONT can be found at
A comprehensive list of what passengers can and cannot pack in
checked luggage or carry-on bags is available at www.tsa.gov.
Passengers traveling overseas for the holidays also are advised to
review customs regulations on what one can bring into the United
States at www.dhs.gov.
Airport security officials also remind passengers of the federal air
travel 3-1-1 rule for liquids, gels and aerosols in carry-on bags: 3
ounce or smaller-sized containers of liquids, gels or aerosols
placed in a one-quart size plastic zip-top bag with one bag per
traveler. Of special note, popular seasonal gifts such as snow
globes fall into the category of liquids that cannot be packed in
carry-on bags. Presents also should not be gift-wrapped, whether in
checked or carry-on bags.
SOURCE Los Angeles World Airports
Airlines sets upgrades at 100K miles
Elite-level frequent fliers
eligible for new benefits beginning Jan. 1
Continental Airlines Inc. said Wednesday
elite-level frequent fliers would be eligible for new benefits.
The airline said beginning Jan. 1 that
Platinum Elite members of its OnePass program would be eligible to
get invitation-only Presidential Platinum Elite status based on how
much they spend on travel at Continental and its affiliates.
Passengers who reach 75,000 miles can get
Platinum Elite status.
Customers who earn at least 100,000 Elite
miles or 120 points will get four one-way certificates to upgrade to
domestic first class or international business class on Continental,
Continental Micronesia or Copa Airlines.
Foreign Laws (Don't Get Busted!)
Seasoned travelers know to watch out for the accidents,
illnesses, and delays that can ruin a vacation. But a few laws
are so unexpected that they can catch even the biggest travel
junkies off guard.
A penny spurned: The phrase "legal tender" isn't
entirely straightforward in Canada. There are lots of
pennies in circulation, but there's a limit on how many can be
used at a time. The maximum number allowable per transaction is
25, so no getting cute with excessive change at the mini-mart.
(Suda)fed up: Careful what you try to bring into
Japan. Medicines that can be bought without a prescription
in the U.S. are sometimes illegal there, and that includes some
Vicks and Sudafed products and anything else containing
pseudoephedrine. Getting caught at customs with such products
can lead to detainment. Who cares if your sinuses are clear if
they and the rest of you are stuck in jail?
A flush of pride: Along with many other things,
Singapore puts a great deal of effort into keeping its
public toilets pristine. And visitors are expected to help keep
them gleaming. Failure to flush may result in fines.
Red-light special: In Sweden, traveling lonely
hearts shouldn't expect any sympathy from ladies of the evening
if they get caught in a clinch with one. The independent
businesswomen there are well within their rights to practice
their profession. However, the gentlemen paying for their
services are at risk for punishments ranging from a fine to as
much as six months in jail.
A canine "autoban": Planning a long Alpine adventure
with Puddles, your lovable pit bull? Read up on animal laws
first. In Germany, breeds that the government considers
dangerous aren't welcome for more than a
four-week visit—and they aren't allowed to live there
at all. Even a bit of mastiff, Rhodesian ridgeback, or
Staffordshire terrier blood may mean no lederhosen for Fluffy.
No Lone Ranger for you: Thinking of an autumn trip to
Scandinavia? Hoping to show them what an American Halloween's
all about? Stick to the simple costumes. In Denmark,
wearing a mask in public can lead to your arrest.
Playing the numbers: Rush-hour regulations in many
major cities of the Philippines seem meant only for
mathematicians: A vehicle can only be driven on days determined
by the last digits of its license plate—this is called, for
murky historical reasons, the "color-coding scheme." So
borrowing a local's car may require more number crunching than
it's worth. Even traveling by scooter has its challenges, since
you can get ticketed for driving in sandals or bare feet.
Gun control: New Year's in Southeast Asia is often a
watery celebration, with lots of buckets, water balloons, and
drenched revelers. But in Cambodia, you must choose your
method of aquatic conveyance carefully. Water guns will be
snatched away on sight. Rumor has it some ruffians filled their
Super Soakers with, er, "used" water, ruining the party for
Watch your mouth: Think foreigners in Thailand
are exempt from the country's famous "never bad-mouth the King"
laws? Think again. Non-Thais may have a better chance of being
able to claim that it was all a big misunderstanding, but as one
disrespectful Australian novelist just discovered, their pardon
may come after five months in prison.
Listen up: In Finland, taxi drivers playing
music in their cars are required to pay a copyright fee. The
idea is that the music is being presented to the "public"—the
cabs' paying customers. If a cabbie won't turn on the radio for
you, understand that he's not necessarily interested in talking
instead. He might just be trying to save a few euros.
Remember: Without a travel agent you're on
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