Welcome to the May 2010 issue of "Smart Traveler". The newsletter with tips and information to help make your traveling smoother.
security speedup program to relaunch
Clear program, which abruptly shut down
last year, expected by fall
The Clear program, which allowed members to
breeze through airport security before it abruptly shut down last
year, is expected to be up and running again by the fall.
The company was taken over by Alclear LLC,
whose board includes Michael Chertoff, former Secretary of the U.S.
Department of Homeland Security. Alclear bought Clear's former
owner, Verified Identity Pass, which filed for bankruptcy.
When the program shut down in June, there
was a lot of concern among members because of the sensitive personal
data they volunteered in exchange for quick passage through security
Although the former owner, Verified
Identity Pass, was private, Clear had to report personal information
to the Transportation Security Administration.
The data is currently stored by a large
unnamed security company. Former Clear customers will soon be sent a
notice, asking if they want their personal data transferred to
Alclear. If not, the data will be destroyed.
To join, passengers must be fingerprinted
and have their irises scanned for positive identification, plus turn
over information including Social Security numbers that the company
shares with the TSA. In return, they get access to shorter security
lines at about 20 airports across the country.
Alclear said in a statement Tuesday that
the subscription terms of nearly 160,000 previous members will be
honored. Enrollment for new members will start this summer. It did
not say how many airports will have the new version of the service.
A Clear membership will cost $179 for
Clear grew out of the Transportation
Security Administration's Registered Traveler program. It was
founded in 2003 by Steven Brill, the businessman behind media
ventures such as court and American Lawyer magazine. Brill left the
company in February when a group of investors took control of the
Airline Fares Rise in Time For Summer Trips
Travelers should prepare for peak-time surcharges and fuller planes
Just as family summer travel is taking off,
so are ticket prices.
Fares for the June-to-August period are up
24 percent from last summer to an average $321 round trip. Memorial
Day fares are up 18 percent to an average of $332.
Travel demand is picking up as the economy
improves. At the same time, airlines haven't rushed to bring back
the planes and available seats they took out of service during the
recession. That allows them to push fares higher. So, travelers will
be hard-pressed to find deals like last summer, when fares dropped
to their lowest levels since 2004.
Shifting travel dates around has always
been one way to find better fares. That's even more important this
summer. In raising fares, the airlines are employing a tactic first
used for Thanksgiving travel last year. Most of the big carriers
added $10 to $30 "peak travel" surcharges each way on nearly every
day between June 10 and Aug. 22.
The surcharges add up. A family of four
traveling on a $30 day would pay out $240 round-trip. Flying on $10
days instead would cut the bill to $80 round-trip. The surcharges
aren't broken out — they're included in the total fare. A customer
can see them in the fine print for each fare's rules. Surcharges are
generally highest on Sundays and lowest on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Airlines have dropped the surcharges from
some fare sales, as well as many flights that compete with Southwest
Airlines and JetBlue, two carriers that have avoided the surcharge.
Surcharge or not, passengers can expect a
crowded plane. U.S. airlines are expecting about 1 percent more
travelers this summer, according to the Air Transport Association
trade group. But the overall number of seats is rising just 0.6
percent — most of them on international flights, the group said.
There will be hardly an empty seat all
Rental Car Fees Loom Part 2
With hotels and flights,
travelers are charged when they fail to
show up on the date of a reservation.
With car rentals, there's usually no fee
for no-shows. But that may soon change.
Auto Rental News reports that the
very real possibility of instituting
no-show fees dominated a recent car
rental convention panel. "We are the
only segment of the travel industry that
does not have a fee for no shows or a
system to guarantee a reservation," said
Bob Barton, president of the American
Car Rental Association (ACRA) and the
panel's lead moderator.
The ACRA says that the no-show rate
on car rentals runs as high as 30
percent in some locations, and in the
age when most rental lots have much
smaller fleets than in the past, it is
increasingly difficult for agencies to
manage inventories. (Granted, at the
same time, agencies have more than
doubled the cost of rental rates,
which certainly helps their bottom
lines.) Car rental insiders swear that
no-show fees aren't at all about the
money such fees would generate. Instead,
per the ARN story:
The panel stressed that the industry
is not looking for a revenue grab,
similar to airline baggage fees, but
a way to better manage utilization.
"I don't care if I ever take a
dollar from a customer for a no
show," said Craig Parmerlee of Ace,
who is working to formulate no-show
fee guidelines for Open Travel
Alliance. "I just want my customer
to show up for the rental so I can
plan my fleet better."
The latest speculation is that such
fees will become a reality soon—perhaps
in 2011, perhaps with Avis Budget taking
the first step. At the end of the
discussion, the panel moderator
requested a show of hands of those who
want to see the advent of car rental
no-show fees. Nearly everyone there
raised their hands.
It's not clear whether all of those
people who want to institute a no-show
fee would also agree to the flip side of
the issue—you know, the one that would
actually benefit travelers. We all know
that when you make a car rental
reservation, there's a chance that by
the time you arrive at the rental
counter the agency might not have the
type of car you reserved. It might not
have any car available at all, for that
matter. Agencies have always partly
blamed this unfortunate scenario on the
high no-show rate.
But if travelers face the prospect of
no-show fees, the no-show rate will
surely drop dramatically, and the agency
has no excuse for renting out a car that
someone else reserved.
If a car rental agency implements a
fee to guarantee travelers will show up
for their reservations, the agency
should at least guarantee that they are
going to honor those reservations. It's
How Can I Stay Healthy While on Vacation?
Question: How Can I Stay Healthy While on
There are several steps you can take to ensure
that you stay as healthy as possible while
Before You Travel
Plan ahead. Visit your doctor and find
out which vaccines you should receive before you
travel. If you're traveling to an area where a
particular disease is prevalent (malaria, for
example), ask your doctor for prescriptions to
prevent the disease or combat its symptoms. Find
out about health risks, including contagious and
insect-borne diseases, weather-related health
issues and current health alerts before you
leave home. Be sure to learn about which
medications you can carry into your destination
country by checking with its
Make sure you have not only your prescription
medications in original bottles, but also any
over-the-counter medications you might need
while on vacation. If you're traveling overseas,
bring copies of each prescription and ask your
doctor to write a letter describing any
controlled substances and / or injectable
medications on his or her letterhead so that you
can bring these items with you.
Insure yourself. If you are a U.S.
citizen and Medicare is your only health
insurance, you definitely need to buy travel
health insurance if you plan to leave the U.S.
If you have other health insurance coverage,
check with your provider to find out whether
you're covered for medical care and medical
evacuation if you become ill while on vacation.
If your policy does not cover these
situations, purchase an emergency medical
coverage plan before you leave home. To get the
maximum possible coverage, do not purchase this
policy from your airline, tour operator or
cruise line; use a third-party provider. Read
the entire policy carefully before you pay for
it to be sure you're covered for pre-existing
conditions, health care while you are away and
medical evacuation if you need to return home
for treatment. To learn more, read the U.S.
country-specific medical insurance information.
Pack defensively. Your travel medical
kit should include prescription medications,
health insurance cards, proof of immunization
(if needed), travel insurance documents and
emergency medical supplies. Depending on your
destination, also bring:
- Insect repellent
- Anti-diarrheal medication
- Pain / fever medication (e.g. ibuprofen)
- Antihistamines and / or decongestants
- Antacid tablets
- Motion sickness medication
- First aid supplies
During Your Trip
Choose your food and drink carefully.
If you're visiting countries that spray crops
with insecticides, wash all fresh fruits and
vegetables thoroughly before eating them. Boil
water before drinking or washing if you are
staying in an area where water is not properly
treated or where cholera and other water-borne
illnesses are prevalent. Skip the ice cubes. If
in doubt, avoid uncooked foods and anything that
might contain tap water, including fountain
(soft) drinks. If food is served at room
temperature, particularly buffet-style, and you
don't know how long the food has been sitting
out, skip it. Eat hot or very cold foods
Wash your hands often. Wash before
eating, after touching your face, after handling
money or items that have been in contact with
the ground and after traveling by public
transport. Carry antibacterial hand wipes or gel
cleanser for situations where hot water and soap
are not available. Washing your hands frequently
is the best way to avoid catching a communicable
Protect yourself from insect-borne
illnesses such as malaria and Lyme disease.
Carry insect repellent and use it frequently.
Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts when
hiking or while visiting countries where malaria
is prevalent. Sleep under mosquito netting in
malaria-prone areas, shaking out the netting
each night before going to bed.
Use sunscreen to protect yourself from
sunburn. Wear a hat with a brim to protect your
face and neck.
Avoid touching animals, including
birds, both wild and domestic. Do not try to
remove animals, particularly bats, from your
room, tent or vehicle; call animal control
authorities instead. Rabies is always a risk,
particularly in developing countries. If an
animal bites you, wash the bite area well with
soap and hot water and seek medical attention
Don't overdo things. Get plenty of
rest, drink lots of water and avoid extreme heat
or cold. You don't have to see every single
monument or museum in every city or country you
visit; it's far better to travel at a relaxed
pace and enjoy your trip.
After You Return
Monitor your health. If you should
become ill, be sure to tell your doctor that you
were on vacation recently, particularly if you
visited a malaria-prone country.
Remember: Without a travel agent you're on
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