Monday, February 2, 2009

Travel Updates

More Travel Updates
#8 in travel series

I have been posting about travel for nearly a year now, and as I look back, some of that information is now outdated. So here's a summary from my latest travel research and experience.

Recommended Reading:
Many of us have heard about Rick Steves; he's published books on traveling through Europe, and is seen on TV and radio, but his site also has some fabulous travel hints, product evaluations, and security tips. I spent some time at the site today but will read it in more detail before my next trip.

Another great website: The author describes how to travel anywhere with one bag. The hints, especially regarding security, are most helpful. The author is British, so the site has the added flavor of British spellings, which always make me feel so . . . educated when I read them.

A helpful, current site with family travel hints: This one addresses many practical issues such as traveling with kids and pets, healthy snacks you may want to bring for your flight, what happens if your airline goes on strike, and other information that's vital to know.

More essential information about travel documents and regulations: This State Department site is loaded with essential information about foreign travel, documents needed, and other important and current travel regulations.

Always consult your airline's website for updates. Check your airport's rules and regulations, too. If you are traveling abroad, this is crucial. Learn what you can and cannot take in/out of other countries, and research the baggage policies of each airline you may use on a long trip with several legs and plane/airline switches. Don't assume anything.

Even if you don't travel extensively, all of these sites are well worth reviewing. Most of my trips are short, and if we're visiting family there are certain items I don't even worry about, including laundry; I just plan to use their facilities.

Now that we’ve figured out how to put our essential liquids into all those little three-ounce bottles, and then how to stuff all the little bottles and containers into zip-top plastic bags, the Transportation Security Administration has announced that by the end of 2009, equipment will be available at most airports to screen liquids for potentially harmful ingredients, and they won't need to be limited to three-ounce containers bagged in your carry-ons. But until this happens, you’ll still need to cram those little carry-on bottles in quart zipper bags for inspection at security. See this informative article about other changes which we may expect in air travel at some future point:

Boarding Passes

The Yahoo article also mentions that in the future, boarding passes may be downloaded onto cell phones or PDAs, so we may be traveling without paper passes. That would require me to learn how to download my boarding pass onto my cell phone, but that can’t be too hard, can it? After all, I can use about three features on my cell phone already, including turning it on and off. Once in a while I accidentally take a picture with it. Usually it's a blurred, surprised image of my own face.

Internet Availabilitiy on Flights
Wireless internet services may also be available on planes in the future, but the article doesn’t mention whether there will be a cost to access it. Many airlines offer television screens for every passenger, but some charge for the service, even to watch basic network channels.

Traveler's checks (or "cheques" if you're visiting the OneBag site) are less convenient than they once were. Experts now say that credit cards have taken their place and are more economical. Call your credit card company if you are going to take a major trip, so unusual charges away from home won't raise red flags. Not all credit cards can be used internationally. If you plan to use an ATM, the OneBag site also has some tips for economical use of ATMs. And he mentions that in some countries, the PIN number must have 4 digits; in other countries, 6 digits are the norm. So do your homework! Call your cell phone company, too, to make sure you have coverage where you will travel.

The Rick Steves and OneBag websites highly recommend wearing pouches that fit under your clothes for valuables including passports and money. They also recommend the brands whose straps can't easily be cut by thieves, and provide links to those sources.

If you purchase very much on your trip, consider mailing those items home if it's economical. Remember the image of the gorillas throwing suitcases around if you have to put them in a checked bag, or the image of the flight attendant grunting as he/she shoves bags around in the overhead bins to make room for more items. My nephew put his compact French horn (in its hard case with spongy interior padding for each piece of the horn) in an overhead bin, and the horn was still dented during the flight. No one knows how. It's just one of life's mysteries.

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