Welcome to the July 2007 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 on June 1, 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.

Southwest Airlines experimenting with various ways of boarding families

Can airlines do a better job of accommodating families?

That's the question Southwest Airlines is asking by experimenting with various ways to board and seat traveling families.

"We began testing about two weeks ago on all flights departing from San Antonio," Linda Rutherford, the airline's vice president of public relations, said Thursday. "We are testing several different ways to conduct family boarding."

Options being considered include "having designated rows for family seating; having them board with no onboard designated area, and pre-boarding them as we would normally," Rutherford said. She said the experiments would continue for a few weeks, and that it was too early to draw conclusions.

Alison Duquette, spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration, said an airline that wanted to seat families in a separate area would not need FAA approval. "It is not a safety issue so the FAA would have nothing to do with it," she said.

David Castelveter, spokesman for the Air Transport Association, the trade organization for U.S. airlines, said the ATA had no position on it.

A recent online Maritz survey found 73 percent of respondents said they would like to see family sections on airplanes.

The Southwest experiment follows several high-profile incidents involving passengers with children, including Kate Penland, who said she was forced to disembark because her toddler was saying "Bye-bye plane!" In another instance, the Transportation Security Administration took the unusual step of posting a video on its Web site that appeared to show a mother dumping the contents of her child's sippy cup on an airport floor after security officials said she couldn't bring the liquid with her. Earlier this year, a family was taken off an AirTran flight when their child threw a tantrum and refused to wear a seatbelt. Last year, protests were held nationwide in support of a nursing mother who was ordered off a plane because she refused to cover up.

Many passengers are surprisingly passionate about issues associated with children on airplanes. Some complain about unruly children and crying babies; others say passengers and even flight attendants are sometimes needlessly hostile to families traveling under difficult circumstances

10 ways to keep cool while flying

1. Take a jacket or sweater. I know this sounds bizarre, but after sweating in the airport, in the Jetway and then on the plane before takeoff, you will freeze once you get airborne. That's when they blast the air conditioning. Moments later, your perspiration will turn to icicles.

2. Be the early bird. If you get to the airport early, you'll have fewer worries, will hurry less and not sweat as much. Have you ever seen a fellow passenger so stressed out that he was practically raining perspiration? It's kind of amusing until you realize that he'll be sitting next to you.

3. Tell a flight attendant. If you are on the airplane and you're hot (or cold, for that matter), let a flight attendant know. Don't assume they already know. They move around the airplane so much that they generate their own heat, or they might be keeping cool by standing next to the air vents.

4. Take a shower. Many airports now have shower facilities. It's a great way to refresh and revitalize between trips. Not long ago, a client was passing through London on the way home from Barcelona. He paid 15 pounds ($23) for a shower and felt like a million bucks afterwards. They even ironed his clothes. Ask at an information desk if your airport has amenities.

5. Crash the gate. If you are at a gate where the air conditioning system is broken and you have plenty of time before your next flight, move to a cooler area. Many people think they have to stay by their gate, but you don't. Relief could be at the next gate over.

6. Dress in layers. When you get too hot, you can peel off some layers; when you're too cool, you can put them back on.

7. Board last. The number-one hot spot is the Jetway. There's no air conditioning, and most of the time you're stuck in a long line that barely moves. If you don't need to board early to grab an overhead bin, stay in the cool gate area and wait until the gate agent announces the final boarding call.

8. Leave more than enough time between flights. Don't be the person running through the airport on a tight connection. Your seat partner will thank you, and your chances of getting a chill from the sudden temperature change are decreased tremendously.

9. Don't stand for it. Complain. And don't take "We are aware of the problem" for an answer. Now that airlines are cutting costs, they are less willing to provide supplemental air. If you threaten to walk off a flight or demand medical assistance, they will quickly pay attention to your needs.

10. Practice good hygiene. Don't be one of the smelly ones. Bring along adequate deodorant and use it.

Hope this helps. Don't sweat it, and have a nice summer. Keep cool!

Why Use, And How To Find A Travel Agent

After spending the last ten years on what seemed like the brink of extinction, the travel service industry is making a rousing comeback. As travel becomes more and more difficult, unpredictable, and arduous, travelers who moved away from travel agents in favor of self-service internet booking are rediscovering the true value of a good travel agent, and returning in droves

Benefits of using a travel agent

  • Help when things go wrong. Many internet customers complain that when problems arise - even common situations like missed flights or lost hotel reservations - there is no one to help. A good travel agent is available 24/7, and has the expertise (and often the connections) to quickly take care of problems as they arise, removing the burden from the traveler.
  • Time savings. The sheer number of on-line booking companies means that it may take hours to find the best deals on your own. One quick call to your travel agent and the work is done for you.
  • Information. Travelers often find that accommodations, restaurants or day tours that look fantastic on-line are a disappointment once they arrive. Your travel agent will be able to give you recommendations (often from personal experience) that fit your needs and preferences.
  • Knowledge and experience. The more complicated your travel plans, the less likely you will be successful on your own. For example, travel agents can find that flight from Beijing to Ulan Bator, brief you on social customs, currency and water quality, and let you know what the airline luggage weight restrictions are on each leg of your journey.

Finding a good travel service professional

  • Ask your traveling friends for recommendations, and ask agencies for a list of current clients that you can contact.
  • Check to see how long the agency has been in business. It takes years for an agent to learn the travel, and it takes years for an agency to establish solid relations with the best travel suppliers. These wholesalers that are financially sound and will guarantee their product.
  • Is it a store front agency? You want a Travel Agency that has invested in a location that is open to the public, so that you can walk in and talk your agent about your vacation and be assured that the agent is not working from their bedroom at home with an 800 number.
  • During the initial meeting, a good agent will ask a lot of questions, covering things such as dietary restrictions, whether aisle or window seats are preferred, if you have a favorite airline or frequent flier membership, whether you prefer a resort or a downtown hotel, and much more. This information is essential in planning travel that meets your interests, needs and budget, and if the agent does not ask questions, chances are you won't receive the level of service that you should expect.

While travel agency services for (airlines) are no longer free to the public (fees typically range anywhere from $10.00 to $100.00 depending on the complexity of the arrangements), most clients will tell you that good travel agents are worth their weight in gold.

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

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