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

Pack Lighter - Or Pay the Price!

Are you packing for airplane travel? If so, you need an update on airline checked baggage allowances. Recently, the airlines began diligently enforcing regulations that have been in existence for some time. They are now charging fees for overweight bags, oversized bags, and for checking more than  1 bag.

Rules may differ slightly from one airline to another so it is always smart to check with your travel agent or the airline.

Northwest Airlines says it will begin charging $25 for a second piece of luggage for flights within North America.

The charge goes into effect May 5 and applies each-way on a two-way trip.

Northwest Airlines Corp. is joining several other carriers with the baggage charge, including US Airways and United Airlines.

Northwest's high-end frequent fliers and full-fare passengers can still check two bags without paying extra. First-class passengers get three bags for free.

Northwest is also going to start charging $50 for bags over 50 pounds. The old fee was $25.

Taking Less Helps
Let's talk about packing lighter—the best solution to the problem. If many travelers can pack for two weeks in a small, 22" carry-on bag and feel well dressed, you can pare down a little. Here are some easy ways to pack less and pack lighter.

Take versatile clothes you can wear several times. A blazer worn on the plane that can also be worn casually with jeans or dressed up for dinner is a good example. Another practical piece is a denim shirt that can be worn as a shirt or light jacket, or over sleepwear as a robe. A different outfit for every day is a travel luxury; it's best to mix and match a few versatile pieces.
Pack around laundry stops. Seven changes of underwear will work for two weeks with a stop at a coin-operated laundry halfway through the trip. Or invest in high-tech underwear made of comfortable wicking fibers that can be washed in your hotel room; it will dry overnight. Pack only three pair (one to wear, one to wash, and a spare) and plan to do hand laundry.

Choose thin items over thick. A turtleneck plus a cardigan sweater is warmer, more versatile, and packs smaller than a sweatshirt or bulky sweater.

Pack only the cosmetics needed. Buy sample size cosmetics or transfer the amount needed to a small container. Cosmetics often represent half of the weight of a fully packed suitcase. Take only three pairs of shoes—wear one pair and pack two. Shoes are a very bulky item.

 Who ever goes anywhere wishing they had packed more?

No Passport Required, Yet

U.S. citizens won’t need a passport to cross over land into Canada or Mexico until the middle of next year, the Department of Homeland Security announced Thursday. According to MSNBC News services, new identification document requirements will take effect June 1, 2009. By then, U.S. travelers will need to prove both identification and citizenship when crossing the border. “We are on course to implement and enforce the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative which is an important step forward in securing the homeland,” Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said. “Limiting and standardizing the types of documents presented will result in a more secure and efficient border. We will continue to encourage cross-border travel and trade while at the same time decreasing identity theft and fraud.”

Effective June 1, 2009, the following rules take effect for cruise passengers:

U.S. citizens on cruise voyages that begin and end at the same U.S. port (closed-loop itineraries) must show proof of citizenship* and government-issued photo ID (such as a driver’s license). A passport will not be required for passengers that fall into this category.

*Documents include: Original or certified copy of birth certificate; Naturalization papers; Consular Report of Birth Abroad issued by Department of State

All other passengers and/or itineraries (such as cruises which begin in one U.S. port and return to a different U.S. port or any cruise that begins or ends in a foreign port) will require a passport or other recognized document. For a list of accepted documents, see www.travel.state.gov.

The good news for a majority of cruise passengers – American citizens that leave and return on their cruise from the same U.S. port – is that the travel document requirements will remain largely unchanged from how the industry is operating today.

No loose batteries allowed in checked baggage

The new hazardous materials safety rule  limits only two spare lithium ion (rechargeable) batteries in the range of 100-300 watt hour capacity and 8-25 equivalent grams of lithium content in carry-on baggage. These are mostly very large capacity batteries used in professional/commercial photography and for other specific individual or industry purposes.

The smaller lithium metal and rechargeable batteries that you find used in personal cell phones, I-pods, PDAs and other small consumer use items fall well below this threshold limit and passengers and crew are allowed UNLIMITED numbers of these batteries in carry-on baggage, as long as they are safely packed to preclude battery terminal contact and possibility of a short circuit.

The new rule that took effect January 1, 2008, now prohibits loose batteries of all kinds in checked baggage, unless those batteries are installed in the devices they are rated for.
What a steal!

 With all the other worries associated with air travel — terrorism, airline bankruptcy, long lines at security — few people worry about theft. No, I don’t mean the ticket price or the price of coffee at the airport. No, the thief I mean is the one sitting next to you on the airplane.

Here’s what you can do to minimize the risk of theft when you fly.


1. Hang it up carefully. If you are in the habit of hanging your jacket or coat in the closet, take all your valuables — especially your wallet — out of the pockets. That’s the first place a thief will look.

2. Mark your bags. More and more bags look alike these days, so put something on your luggage that makes it stand out from the rest: a sticker or ribbon – anything that makes a mix-up less likely. This will prevent the intentional — and unintentional — misappropriation of your property.

3. Dummy up. Carry a “dummy” wallet or purse that contains only one credit card, $20 in cash and one form of identification. Put the rest of the usual contents in your carry-on bag. That way, you’ll have less to lose if the dummy is lifted or lost.

4. Walk it through. If there is a long security line, your bags may clear the X-ray scanner before you make it through the metal detector. Wait until you are ready to walk through the machine before releasing your purse, wallet or laptop. Sure, there is camera surveillance at security, but your thief will be long gone before any review takes place. Fact: More items go missing in the security line than from any other place.

5. Stow it nearby. Once you’re on the airplane, keep your carry-on bag nearby. Some back-of-the-plane passengers think it’s smart to stow their bag in an overhead bin up front, for an easy grab during deplaning. Believe me, a watchful thief can grab that bag a lot faster than you can push and shove your way to the front of the line.

6. Bury the treasure. If you put your billfold or any other valuables in your bag, don’t put them in the outermost compartments. That’s pretty much telling a thief, “Help yourself.”

7. Watch your seat. Be careful when storing your bag under the seat in front of you; don’t face any pockets forward, or the passenger in front of you may walk off with your goods. Also, never leave anything of value on your seat when you leave it to go to the lavatory or to take a stroll.

8. Do not pass go. Take special care of your passport and know where it is at all times. Losing your passport will ruin your entire trip; trust me on this one.

9. Exercise common sense. Carry your purse with the opening facing toward you, and keep your wallet out of your back pocket. I know this sounds obvious, but when people go flying, common sense often gets checked with the baggage.

10. Speak up. Don’t overreact if you catch someone handling your bag (innocent mistakes do happen), but be firm none the less. Similarly, if you witness a theft, tell someone immediately — a flight attendant, gate agent, security guard — anyone. I‘m sure you would want their help if you were the victim.

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

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