March 21st, 2012 · Comments Off on Using Electronics on Airplane Takeoff & Landing
Ever since the FAA approved iPads for pilots of commercial flights, there have been no shortage of editorials complaining about how passengers couldn’t use them. The argument against electronics on an airplane have always been about two things:
- Concern that personal electronics, like cell phones and tablets, would interfere with the plane’s sensitive electronics.
- Passengers should be alert and paying attention to flight attendants and that, during the rougher takeoff and landing procedures, flying objects are dangerous should their owners lose hold of them.
I can buy the first argument – I know that my alarm clock makes a buzzing noise before I receive a text message, so I am aware that electronic interference exists and can have an effect. The second argument in BS, since you are allowed to read books, which can be heavy and possess the same attention grabbing powers of a tablet or phone.
Here’s the kicker though – do you really need to use those devices during takeoff and landing? I argue that you should take a break, rest your eyes, and just enjoy the majesty of flying. Those periods are very short and having an extra half hour of time with your iPad shouldn’t make that much of a difference!
March 5th, 2012 · Comments Off on Booking Flights for Children Under Two
When in doubt, call the airline.
We recently booked a summer flight to Taiwan on China Eastern Airlines and my first inclination was to just buy two tickets. One for me, one for my wife. Our son will be joining us (we got him a baby passport!) but on many airlines, especially domestic airlines, a child under the age of two does not need a ticket if they are traveling on your lap. Of course, lap travel works well on a flight that’s an hour or two, it’s entirely different if you plan on taking a 15 hour flight from New York to Taipei, Taiwan!
Anyway, so we go to book our flights and I realized that I should probably call to confirm whether or not we needed to buy a ticket. The answer was yes, we’d have to spend around $330 for a ticket for our child even though he wasn’t going to be taking up a seat. I thought it was a little unfair but the rules are the rules. We also later called to check out our seats and realized that we needed to reserve a bassinet (located at the front of the sections) if we wanted one… which was crucial to find out. 15 hours with a bassinet for our son to sleep in is infinitely better than 15 hours with no bassinet, fortunately we were able to reserve one. There was no notice online that told us to call in and reserve one either, so I feel fortunate we got lucky.
So, two takeaways from our experience:
- Always call to make sure you know the policy on child passengers under the age of two, each airline may have different rules than what you’re used to. For example, Southwest let’s you carry your child without a ticket.
- When booking a flight with bassinets, call to see if you need to reserve one. The answer is probably yes, especially since the bassinets have no numbers and your child probably doesn’t have a seat.
Tags: Travel Tips
February 28th, 2012 · 1 Comment
Getting a passport for a baby isn’t that much different than getting one for an adult and we recently did this for our son for a trip this summer. The only “tricky” part was the photo!
The first step is to get the photo. Here are the rules for the passport photo, in case you want to do it yourself – the photo must be in color on photo quality paper, sized 2″ x 2″ (51 x 51 mm). They want the size of the head to be between 1 inch and 1 3/8 inches from the bottom of the chin to the top of the head and taken within the last six months. The background must be a solid white or off-white background, no colors. Your face must be facing directly forward, centered, with no smile, keep a neutral expression and both eyes open. Your clothes must be normal street clothes that you would wear on a daily basis, religious clothing is allowed but no uniforms. Do not wear a hat, or anything on or around your face if you can avoid it, unless it is religious in nature and worn every day. Here are some examples of good and bad photos.
I think the rules for babies is a little laxer because our photo fit almost all the rules except his mouth was open. He wasn’t smiling but I’d imagine a neutral expression usually means a closed mouth. Since that wasn’t explicitly listed as a no no, we submitted it anyway and the processor had no issue with it.
This is normally not an issue for adults, and older children, if they know the rules. Babies… well, babies don’t care. 🙂
The next few steps are the same for a child, under the age of 16, as it is for an adult. It consists of filling out and submitting Form DS-11, the Application for a U.S. Passport, and additional information that identifies the child and the parent or guardian of that child.
Here’s the full list of what you’ll need:
- DS-11 Application, along with passport photos.
- Evidence of U.S. Citizenship for the child – You can use a previously issued Passport, certified birth certificate, naturalization certificate, or certificate of citizenship.
- Evidence of Relationship, between you and child – Certified birth certificate with both parents’ names, Foreign birth certificate with both parents’ names, adoption decree with adopting parents’ names, court order that establishes custody or guardianship
- ID of parents – Passport, naturalization certificate, valid driver’s license, government or military ID
- Photocopy of each parent/guardian ID to be presented – Photocopy on plain white 8.5 x 11″ paper with front and back of ID
We opted to go to our local library, instead of the post office, because they offer this service for a $25 fee (same as the post office) and we figured it was going to be a little faster. After fifteen minutes and $105 later ($25 processing fee, $80 passport fee), we were done. Passport will be here in 4-6 weeks.
Remember, passports for children expire every five years.
February 4th, 2012 · 1 Comment
One of the silly errands we all have to do before going on a trip is to get our mail delivery halted, or “put on hold,” or risk overflowing mailboxes and stolen mail. Fortunately the USPS has entered the modern era because you can now place a USPS hold mail request online, skipping a trip to the always packed post office. Next time you need to do this errand, try the online form and save yourself fifteen minutes (or more!)
Tags: Money Tips
January 27th, 2012 · 1 Comment
I was looking at flights over the weekend on Southwest Airlines, my favorite airline, when I noticed that airfares seemed a little higher than normal. It wasn’t until later that I realized the quoted airfare rates now included all government taxes and fees, something that was usually included later whenever you started the “checkout” process. It turns out that the Department of Transportation’s Passenger Protection Regulations Rule #2 kicked in on January 24th and the “Full Fare Advertising” provision would be effective yesterday, January 26th. The Full Fare Advertising provision says that all air fares must include government imposed taxes and fees. It doesn’t require that bag fees or other fees be included (Southwest’s FAQ on the subject
I love it. I also love the provisions of Rule #2 (they involve notification for delayed flights).
The funny part is that Spirit Airlines is making a huge stink about it, calling it “deceptive” that airlines have to “hide” taxes in quoted airfare rates. Forget the fact that all airlines and sites must now show all taxes and fees in quoted airfare rates (thus leveling the playing field), but Spirit Airlines preferred to show the lower pre-tax and pre-fee rates and then jack up prices afterwards. They’re trying to spin it as if the government wants to secretly hike up fees (which they might, but that still would appear after you check out and every airline would be subject to the fees), but ultimately this is very consumer friendly in that it shows your final price when the search.
So if you’ve started seeing higher fares, just know that it includes all the government imposed fees and taxes on the front end.
Tags: Money Tips
January 19th, 2012 · Comments Off on Independent Hoteliers Top TripAdvisor’s Top 25 Hotels
TripAdvisor announced it’s best 25 hotels in its 10th Annual Travelers’ Choice Awards and the majority of the listed hotels are independent or small chains. Marriott, Hilton, and many of the top hotels chains were not on the list. The top ranking went to the Elysian Hotel in Chicago, which is set to join the Hilton Waldorf-Astoria chain.
One of our favorite hotel chains, Kimpton Hotels, made it on the list three times – in Chicago IL, Portland OR, and Alexandria VA. We’ve stayed at several Kimpton hotels, each with their own quirky (or not so quirky) theme, and loved every single experience. We haven’t been to any of the ones listed on the top 25, I can say for sure that Kimpton does things right. They have the best loyalty perks for someone who isn’t a heavy business traveler from free Wi-Fi to $15 in “honor-bar” items (from their mini fridges) just for being a member.
As for the best hotel in the world, that prize went to The Phoenix Resort in San Pedro, Belize – the photos look amazing!
Tags: Travel News
January 14th, 2012 · Comments Off on Pay Attention During Cruise Emergency Drills
At the start of every cruise, the crew usually makes you go through a series of drills to help you understand the emergency evacuation protocols of the ship you’re on. Go on enough cruises and eventually you might start tuning out. It’s like safety talks on airplanes, it’s easy to tune out when you don’t expect to ever need that information. Except one day you might and there are likely far more incidents on water than there are in planes, in part because planes are so heavily regulated and the regulations are very strict.
As for cruise ships, you’re more like to get sick, from the close quarters, than actually having to evacuate the ship… but it’s not unheard of. Just yesterday, a cruise ship ran aground near the Italian island of Giglio. If you’ve ever watched a cruise ship go into port, you’ll know that sometimes they go into some pretty tight passageways. Running aground is uncommon but when you’re moving anything of that size through such a small channel, mistakes can happen.
In this case, the ship was carrying 3200 passengers and 1000 crew when it ran aground during dinner and at least three people were killed. It just underscores the importance of paying attention during those drills.
Tags: Travel News
December 26th, 2011 · 1 Comment
For the average American, there are three pieces of identification that are more valuable than any other: your driver’s license, your social security card, and your passport. Of these three, there is one that naturally becomes far more valuable and far easier to displace when you’re on vacation: the passport.
No matter where you’re traveling, it’s hard to vacation these days without at least a few valuables in tow. People not only travel with wallets and traveler’s checks, but they also bring laptops, cellphones, cameras, and other gadgets along. Having any of these lost or stolen while traveling can be a tremendous hassle and a privacy concern, not to mention a financial loss. Unless your stolen valuable is extremely rare or expensive, however, few things compare with the difficulties created by a displaced passport – at least for those who are traveling overseas and need that passport in order to get back home.
If you find yourself in such a position while on an international trip, and you are sure that your passport has been permanently lost or stolen, it is crucial to take immediate steps to replace it. When dealing with a misplaced passport, the State Department requires you to do the following:
- Go to an official passport agency or facility, and submit a new application in person.
- At the facility, present a DS-11 (application for a new passport), a DS-64 (a statement attesting to a lost or stolen passport), and two passport photos (clear, 2 by 2 inches, and recently taken).
- Make sure that you have a valid form of identification, such as a driver’s license, with you at the facility.
- After submitting the above information, you can pay for regular or expedited passport delivery, the former of which takes 1-2 months and the latter 2-3 weeks. The replacement passport will cost you somewhere in the $100-$200 range.
These steps are easy and straightforward enough to do when dealing with a passport that has been lost while at home. But how should one go about doing this while traveling overseas? The answer, simply put, is to rely on the U.S. embassy in the country of your travels. The embassy should be able to help you work quickly through these steps by providing you with the required forms and getting you a new passport – or, at least, a temporary one – in a matter of days, not weeks. If you don’t have any identification to show the embassy (i.e., if your driver’s license was stolen as well) you can use digital records from your laptop to help prove who you are. If you don’t have any identifying information whatsoever, or if everything was stolen, it will likely take the embassy longer to get your papers in order.
Some people wonder whether they have to physically travel to the local U.S. embassy in order to replace their passport. In most cases the answer is yes, even if you are traveling in a large country and are hundreds of miles from the capital city. While switching up your plans and heading to the capital certainly poses a hassle, it is far better than finding yourself stranded abroad, with no way of getting back home.
December 19th, 2011 · 1 Comment
The idea that we should arrive at the airport two hours prior to our departure time is due to the potential bottleneck created by the pre-terminal security checkpoint. The wait can be nothing or it can be a nightmare, but if everyone arrived at this necessary portal prepared, who knows how much time could be saved? While you cannot control the personal responsibility of others, and certainly cannot do anything about clogged checkpoints during busy spells, there are a number of things that you can do to ensure you get yourself through airport security as quickly as possible:
Pack accordingly: The first and obvious step is to pack your carry-on items with airport security in mind. That means keeping your laptop or tablet in a place where it can be easily taken out, as well as remembering to limit liquids and gels to 3.4 ounce bottles (and placing them inside zip-lock bags).
Having your boarding pass and identification readily available: You will be asked to show TSA personnel your boarding pass as well as a valid form of identification, so have these items at the ready. Acceptable forms of I.D. include state drivers license and passport.
Wear slip-on shoes: Passengers are asked to remove their shoes and place them in a bin to be ran through the X-ray along with carry-on luggage. Avoid snugly fit shoes with shoestrings, and opt instead for flip-flops, sandals, or slip-ons (though for the sake of sanitation, wear socks).
Skip the belt: If you can, store any belt you wish to wear for the duration of your flight somewhere in your carry-on where you can retrieve it after being cleared through security. The metal is sure to set the detector off, and removing it is time-consuming.
Store change, phone, keys, jewelry, et cetera, in your carry-on: Instead of having to dump all of these items into an unhygienic and slippery bin, put them in your luggage while in line and get them when you’ve cleared the checkpoint.
Avoid loose-fit clothing: You will be asked to remove any sweaters or jackets and place them in a bin to be X-rayed. Comfortable clothing is a must for air travel, but keep in mind that TSA personnel are trained to take a second look at anyone wearing baggy attire, as it’s easier to conceal potentially dangerous items underneath.
Nobody can predict the time it will take to get through airport security. But everybody ought to take the necessary personal steps to ensure they can get through the checkpoint as quickly as possible. If everyone did, then we could probably start showing up to the airport a little later than we do.
December 12th, 2011 · Comments Off on How to Zip Through Traffic This Holiday Season
If you think that everyday traffic is painfully excruciating to sit through, then you probably aren’t a fan of the holiday season. People are constantly occupying the road in order to visit family, buy groceries, and purchase gifts at retail stores. It doesn’t matter if you do your shopping online or don’t even celebrate the holidays because you are going to inevitably get stuck in some traffic jams.
If you are turned off by the idea of holiday traffic, your best bet is to just stay inside, watch The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, and not partake in the festivities. If you absolutely must leave the house, here are some tips on reaching your destination in a more efficient manner:
Stay Off Major Roads/strong>
Big box retailers, outlet stores, and shopping malls are all located along major roads in order to draw the most foot traffic. If you are trying to reach a destination by taking the easiest path, you may find yourself waiting in traffic longer than usual.
Look Out for Traffic Police/strong>
Police are out in full force during the holiday season. The most car crashes and accidents happen at this time of year because people drive recklessly, aggressively, or even intoxicated. In order to curb these driving habits, police issue more citations that can ruin the average commuter’s day. Drive with extra care and follow the rules closely from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day.
Find Alternate Routes to Work/strong>
Getting to work in the morning can seem like a longer task than usual due to road congestion. People aren’t just trying to make it to their jobs, but are also out shopping and running unusual errands. By logging onto Google Maps and altering your normal route, you can discover new ways that are more efficient to get to your destination.
Leave Work Early or Late/strong>
One of the worst parts about the November and December is that the sun is out less than any other time of the year. Drivers have to adjust their vision and usually drive slower in order to accommodate. If you get into your job early you can avoid heavy morning traffic, finish your work, and then leave before the sun goes down.
Park in the Back of the Parking Lot
If you have to go to the store to purchase your holiday gifts, you will notice that the cars in the front of the parking lot never seem to move from their location. They have figured that they are never going to get a spot that good again so they will keep it forever. If they do decide to leave they find out that leaving the busy parking lot is harder than actually finding a good spot and wait in line to get out. By packing in the back of the lot, you can get out of the store and back home faster.
The only person who can reasonably beat holiday traffic is Santa because he uses a flying sleigh instead of a car. While you can’t rely on magic to take you around town, you can learn when to avoid the busiest times on the road and inconvenient stops by taking time to plan out your route.
Tags: Money Tips