Welcome to the February 2007 issue of "Smart Traveler". The newsletter with tips and information to help make your traveling smoother.

Staying Healthy While Flying

The seasoned traveler knows all too well how daunting air travel can be. Airplanes are like germ incubators, and their dry, cramped conditions make the flying experience far from comfortable. Here are some tips on how to sustain wellness in the air.

Air Woes

Oftentimes passengers will experience flu-like symptoms shortly after they’ve boarded the plane. These headaches, sluggishness, light-headedness, sore throats, coughing, dry lips, and dry or watery eyes are in fact due to the elbow-to-elbow seating and lack of fresh air that only an air cabin could so effectively create. The culprit here is an increased level of carbon dioxide--brought about by those very conditions of limited air and too many people sharing it. To make matters worse, the air at soaring altitude is drier than the atmosphere above the Sahara. Dehydration can easily exacerbate any of the above symptoms.

Some tricks to prevent these unsavory effects:

  • Drink plenty of fluids (preferably water) before, during, and after your flight. Not only will you feel better, but keeping up your fluid reserves also helps your body ward off a whole other host of maladies. Staving off dehydration will also decrease your risk of getting jet lag.
  • If need be, slap on some moisturizer and lip balm to combat the dry air in the flight cabin.
  • If you wear glasses, don’t fly with contacts--don your specs instead. Contacts will only dry out and further irritate itchy or burning eyes.
  • If your budget allows, fly in first or business class, where fewer people share air space and seating is much more spacious. If you’re flying coach, request a seat in an emergency exit row--the roomiest of all rows.
  • Don’t leave home without your inhaler if you have asthma.
  • If you’re on a connecting flight and have sufficient time, try to get as much fresh air as you can between connections.
  • Clear your head with a hot, steamy shower after you land.
  • Avoid smoky bars when you reach your destination or while you wait for a connecting flight.

Dehydration also weakens the immune system. Cramped conditions breed the contraction of germs. Cabin air pressure can wreak havoc on your ears. As a result, colds, as well as sinus and ear infections, often inflict passengers. To minimize the discomfort of pressure building in your ears, here’s how to make them pop: Pinch your nostrils closed and inhale deeply. Then exhale through your nose, blowing out in short, firm bursts until you feel your ears pop. Yawning, drinking liquids, and chewing gum also help.

It’s generally not a good idea to fly while you’re suffering from a cold. Passengers sitting in close proximity to those with colds are clearly at risk for catching bugs. If you must fly, pop a decongestant tablet or use a nasal spray (not one containing an antihistamine, which would induce drowsiness) before and after your flight.


Precautions for Kids

Kids are especially susceptible to germs, and it’s more difficult for them to make their ears pop during takeoff and landing. This can make ascent and descent painful--even dangerous--for a child with congested sinuses. If your child is suffering from a cold or the flu, keep her on the ground until she gets better (if that’s an option). If you must travel with your little one as scheduled, give him an oral child’s decongestant an hour before ascent and descent or administer a spray decongestant before and during takeoff and landing.

A Fast Pass Through Airport Security
The long awaited Registered Traveler program, which allows screened participants to go through a special, faster security line officially opened for business at 5 Airports last month.
Travelers who join the Clear® Registered Traveler program are pre-screened for security and provided with a biometric card which will allow them to pass through security faster, with more predictability and less hassle.

Clear lanes at security checkpoints are open every day. For more information on hours, locations and enrollment at each airport, click any airport below.

Clear lanes are coming soon to:

Clears first year price is $99.95 (includes a $28.00 TSA vetting fee). You can lock-in this rate by purchasing a two year membership for $199.90 or three years for $299.85.

For the frequent flyer, this could be terrific and as the program grows it will mean shorter security lines for the rest of us.

We will monitor the Registered Traveler program and let you know when "Clear" comes to an airport near you.

Traveling with a Laptop

These days, being a business traveler means lugging around a lot of expensive equipment, including cell phones, electronic datebooks, laptop computers, and more. Here's a few suggestions on how to keep one of your most valuable business-related items safe and secure.

·         To help keep thieves at bay, it's always smart to keep your laptop in a case that doesn't immediately identify it as a computer. The same advice holds true for cameras, VCRs, and other expensive equipment you might take on your business travels.

  • When entering a metal detector at the airport, do not put your laptop on the conveyor belt to be x-rayed. Rather, ask the security guard to conduct a manual search of the computer and any other electronic equipment you may have with you.
  • Once on the airplane, keep your laptop nearby. Don't store computers in overhead bins because they can get thrown around during the flight. So when you're not furiously typing away on a business proposal--or playing solitaire--keep your computer underneath the seat in front of you.
  • Always travel with extra batteries and call the hotel ahead of time to make sure it has modems and data ports available in guest rooms or in the hotel business center. Also, if you plan on doing a lot of work in your room, pack an extension cord so you can use the laptop from your preferred spot, regardless of where the outlet is located. In a pinch, move the furniture to suit your needs.
  • Keep in mind that outside of North America, you may encounter phone jacks that are incompatible with your modem. Be sure to check out what kinds of adapters you may need before you go. And read up on more information about modem connections abroad.

Bumped off the ship

You may have heard of being bumped off an airline flight, but did you know you could be bumped off a cruise ship? Indeed, you can.

The most publicized case of cruise bumping occurred when Carnival Cruise Lines canceled sailings for three ships over a six-month period so the vessels could house New Orleans residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Carnival offered its bumped customers full refunds and the opportunity to rebook their cruises on any Carnival ship. Guests who rebooked received a $100-per-person shipboard credit. Carnival notes that the majority of guests understood the extraordinary circumstances and booked other Carnival cruises.

But most bumps don’t go so gently, especially when some passengers get bumped and others don’t. So who gets bumped — and why?

The usual reason is overbooking, sometimes it’s when a charter group turns up. Other reasons include itinerary changes on multi-segment cruises and changes in vessel availability. The luckless “bumpee” can be just about anyone. The decision can depend to how a passenger booked his cruise, what cabin category he’s in, and even how he booked his airline tickets.

The law is on the side of the ship owner

There are no federal or state laws prohibiting a cruise line from bumping passengers because of overbooking. Each cruise line has its own bumping policies, which are stated in the terms and conditions of it passenger contract.

So what is the poor bumped traveler to do?

Travelers find ways to get what they want

First, dig in your heels. You don’t have to go down without a fight.

We advises all clients to either refuse to be bumped or to negotiate for upgrades, refunds, shipboard credits, pre-cruise lodging — or whatever compensation would make the client happy. “It’s just like an airline bump, but much more is involved and it is a bigger investment,”.

Bump insurance?

There is no travel insurance policy that covers getting bumped off a cruise. Travel Guard, one of the largest travel insurers, specifically excludes from its cruise coverage any travel arrangements changed or canceled by the cruise line.

The best defense against an unwanted bump is a good travel agent — one who will advocate for you and throw the weight of the agency’s future business behind you. After all, cruise lines worry about getting the heave-ho, too.

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

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