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Posted by Caroline Costello on Friday, March 7, 2014
Are you a candidate for most-hated passenger on the plane? If you're guilty of any of the following bad habits, you'll likely be the subject of disdainful glares, sanctimonious whispers, and violent revenge fantasies on your next flight. Here are 10 signs that you're the human embodiment of all that is wrong with modern air travel.
(Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Your Seat Is in the Lap of the Person Behind You
Don't get us wrong: We support seat reclining—within reason. Look behind you. Avoid reclining during mealtime. Maybe don't recline your seat at all if you're sitting in front of Shrek. This is how you can handle that button on the armrest with grace. But passengers who cruelly swing their seats back dentist-chair-style and leave it leaning from takeoff to landing? They give considerate recliners a bad name. Look behind before you recline!
(Photo: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)
Where are your shoes? If they are not fastened to the ends of your legs, then there is a problem. Don't tell me that your feet don't smell, because according to an extensive body of scientific research, the majority of people with smelly feet are completely unaware that they have smelly feet. And it's more than just your naked extremities: From supersonic farts to smelly snacks to bad breath, there are untold ways to offend the olfactory nerves of your fellow flyers. If you or your belongings emit a perceptible odor, we can pretty much guarantee that everyone in the neighboring rows wants you to go away forever.
(Photo: dieter-weinelt via flickr/CC Attribution)
Your Kid Is Out of Control
The polite tolerance of screaming babies is a generally accepted part of the social contract. A baby can't help screeching like a cat being murdered. Babies cry; this we understand. Out-of-control seven-year-olds are another matter altogether. If your kid is old enough to read (and doesn't live with a sensory-processing disorder or other medical impairment), he or she is expected to follow basic commands such as, "Don't touch that lady's hair." Otherwise, your failings as a parent will be noticeable to everyone on the plane.
(Photo: bradleygee via flickr/CC Attribution)
You're Captain Grabby Hands
If you grab the seat in front of you every time you get up, you are the worst. There's not much more to say about this. Flying is uncomfortable enough without having your seat pulled back and released like a slingshot at unexpected moments. Don't touch anyone's seat unless you're about to fall and it's the only way to prevent a face-plant on the drink cart.
(Photo: Scott Gries/Getty Images)
Yes, Bridesmaids is funny. You like jokes. We get it. But not everyone on the plane is watching the same in-flight feature as you. Many of your seatmates are actually trying to sleep. In the confines of an airplane cabin, your shrill cackle has the auditory effect of squealing breaks or the Aflac duck. Same goes for chewing food with an open mouth, listening to loud music on cheap headphones, playing any kind of game with sound effects, making bodily noises, crying because your vacation is over, or having a boisterous conversation.
(Photo: bradleygee via flickr/CC Attribution)
You're Feeling Very, Very Friendly
In-flight dating apps like Wingman should be illegal. Can't the airlines do something to block usage of these hellish apps that enhance the possibility I'll be reaching for the barf bag? Airplanes are gross enough as it is. Even a platonic attempt at stranger-to-stranger human connection can quickly become inappropriate and aggressive when made in flight. The object of your attention has nowhere to hide in the event that he or she really isn't interested in talking about weekend plans and the weather. So whether you want to make a friend or a "friend," table it until the plane lands.
(Photo: hoyasmeg via flickr/CC Attribution)
You're Doing Things That Should Only Be Done in Private
Use your imagination here. This could include anything from picking at your bare feet to examining your split ends. You might think that your seatmate doesn't notice that you're scratching at the scab on your arm throughout the flight. But trust us—he does. And it's making him uncomfortable.
You Think You're a Special Snowflake
You may be surprised to learn that you are not the only person on this plane. Look to your left. Look to your right. There are other people! In the event that you are not flying on an empty ghost plane and that you have purchased a coach-class ticket, follow these simple rules: Do not use the flight-attendant call button as your ring-for-service bell. Do not snap your fingers at the flight attendant because you want more ginger ale. Do not spend 30 minutes looking at your phone in the bathroom. Do not ask to switch seats on a full flight because you are in the middle seat and you don't like it. And so on.
Basically, pack away your delusions of grandeur and try to behave in a cooperative fashion. If you didn't spring for a ticket upgrade, don't expect a superior, personalized flying experience.
(Photo: C Jill Reed via flickr/CC Attribution/Share Alike)
One of the worst conceivable places to lose your inhibitions in a sea of SKYY vodka is on a flight. You're packed in a metal tube, where boozed-up conduct that would, at worst, garner an eye roll on the ground could easily attract the attention of federal authorities. Yell and use profanity in your local watering hole? You'll be asked to leave. Yell and use profanity at 30,000 feet? You'll face a police escort and disorderly-conduct charges in federal court.
You're Invading Space
Your carry-on items are commandeering the floor space of your seatmates. Your butt is in someone's face for an interminable period of time as you wait to use the bathroom. Your fat duffel bag takes up an entire overhead bin. Your elbows are poking across adjacent seats. If these statements describe you, then you're an airplane space invader and you need to be stopped. The solution is easy: Check your oversized bag, and keep your butt and elbows (assuming you know the difference) in check.
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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title 10 Signs You're the Worst Person on Your Flight.
Posted by Caroline Costello on Wednesday, March 5, 2014
On a transatlantic red-eye flight, the kid behind my traveling companion would not stop kicking the seat.
My friend did his best to ignore the rhythmic banging for a while, but the child persisted with his behavior. After some time, my friend snapped. He turned around and demanded that the child's mother control her kid. He was perceptibly angry.
Had my friend asked the mother to put an end to the kicking before he allowed himself to become so inflamed, a more pleasant interaction might have taken place.
The child's mother apologized and told her tot to stop striking the seat. Not all adults are as accommodating. At times, parents can forget that their strong enthusiasm for their own kids isn't shared by the entirety of the human population. This becomes evident during air travel especially, when sleep-deprived and cranky grownups are locked in close quarters with other peoples' histrionic tots. Your kid is dancing in her seat, hungry for the thrill of the spotlight, waiving her arms like little windmills. Her adult seatmate, meanwhile, is struggling to keep a composed facial expression while silently screaming, "Please please please stop it stop it stop it stop it!"
It's a delicate situation. Avoiding confrontation with the harried parents of misbehaving young flyers isn't always an option.
I asked travel expert and mom of two Wendy Perrin, author of the Perrin Post, for advice on what to do when a toddler or older child is being disruptive on a plane. (Infants, of course, are a different story.) Is it rude to ask a parent to quiet his or her child? "Yes, unless the noise is excessive and the parent isn't stepping in," said Perrin. "Don't scold a parent before you've given him a chance to rectify the situation. You never know when a child might be sick or have special needs."
What if a kid is misbehaving and disturbing nearby passengers—kicking seats and such? According to Perrin, "I would ask the parent to switch seats, so that the parent ends up separating me from the child. Say the parent is in the window seat, the child is in the middle, and I'm on the aisle. I'd say something like, 'I have a lot of work I need to get done on this flight. Would you mind switching seats with your child?'"
Compassion and courtesy are necessary. Give the parent the benefit of the doubt, and keep in mind that illness, special needs, or even sleep deprivation could be at the root of the behavior. If the parent, for whatever reason, refuses to cooperate and his or her child is out of control, talk to a flight attendant.
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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title What to Do When a Child Is Misbehaving on the Plane.
Posted by Caroline Costello on Monday, March 3, 2014
Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary promises to get you across the pond for 10 bucks.
Speaking at the Irish Hotels Federation conference in Meath, O'Leary vowed to sell 10 buck flights across the Atlantic, as soon as his carrier acquires the necessary aircraft. Flights from the U.S. to Europe would sell for $10, and transatlantic trips going the other direction would cost €10. According to O'Leary, budget airline Ryanair already has a business plan in place to make this happen.
O'Leary said no-frills Ryanair "would fly from 12 to 14 major European cities to 12 to 14 major U.S. destinations, and a full service would begin within six months of Ryanair getting the aircraft to do so."
How long before Ryanair gets enough planes to sell $10 transatlantic flights? O'Leary said it could be a while before this budget traveler's dream becomes a reality. And according to a report in the Independent, it'll be four to five years before Ryanair has the purchasing power to buy enough planes, as rapidly expanding Gulf carriers are creating intense competition for new aircraft orders.
This plan isn't entirely preposterous. Ryanair would characteristically tack on a harsh amount of additional fees for passengers buying these bargain-basement tickets. The Irish carrier has a track record of selling gimmicky cheap seats offset by crazy ancillary charges—and therein lies the rub. These next-to-nothing transatlantic fares wouldn't include the extra fees and surcharges that Ryanair dumps on travelers, such as credit-card fees, baggage fees, booking fees for tickets purchased over the phone, et al. Plus, the actual flying experience will likely be soul-destroying.
The airline would also offset the cost of $10 seats with higher-priced business-class and premium tickets. "Not every seat will be €10 of course," said O'Leary.
Would you spend seven hours in hell crossing the pond in a cut-rate Ryanair seat?
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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title $10 Flights to Europe from US Cities, Vows Ryanair
Posted by Caroline Costello on Friday, February 28, 2014
The best way to ease through airport security is to dress for success. Certain garments and accessories could get you flagged for extra screening, slowing down your progression through the airport. Want to roll through the security line like a pro? Avoid wearing the following attire.
(Photo: Maria Morri via flickr/CC Attribution)
Shoes That Are Difficult to Remove
We advise travelers to wear slip-on shoes in the airport security line. You'll have to take your shoes off and put them in the screening bin before walking through the metal detector, and flyers fumbling with tangled laces or strappy sandals could hold up the line. Plus, if you're in a hurry to catch your flight, slip-on shoes will be easy to put back on and thus will hasten your transit from the end of security to the terminal.
Note that children under the age of 12 and adults ages 75 and older may leave their shoes on during screening.
(Photo: Amy Gaertner via flickr/CC Attribution)
Jewelry or Piercings ... or Anything Metal, for that Matter
If you set off the metal detector, you're in for additional screening—or at least a wave of the wand while other travelers stream past you. Everything from metal fasteners on clothes to body piercings to keys in your pocket could cause alarm in the security line. Additionally, metal items could hold you up when going through backscatter scanners (also known as Advanced Imaging Technology machines). According to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), "The officer viewing the image cannot see the passenger, so any irregularity that appears on the screen will require inspection to determine what it is."
If you are wearing metal body piercings that cannot be removed, you may request a private screening in lieu of a patdown.
(Photo: Ollie Crafoord via flickr/CC Attribution)
If your pants fall down the moment your belt comes off, don't wear them to the airport. You can probably imagine why. Flyers must remove belts before walking through metal detectors, so choose a belt-free outfit, or at least be prepared to remove your belt if you want to wear one.
Belts aren't permitted through airport security because their metal clasps set off the metal detector. However, even if you are wearing a belt without a metal clasp, an agent might request that you remove it anyway. It's standard procedure.
(Photo: lululemon athletica via flickr/CC Attribution)
Coats and Jackets
It's airport screening 101: Travelers must remove coats and jackets—this includes outerwear like hooded sweatshirts, vests, and such—before going through the metal detector. It's perfectly fine to sport a jacket in a chilly airport. Just remember to take your outerwear off and put it in a screening bin before proceeding through the checkpoint.
Offensive clothing may get you kicked off a plane, but it could also draw extra attention from TSA agents (though it's more likely that airline staff, rather than an airport security agent, will ban you from flying due to inappropriate or offensive clothing). Stories of flyers prohibited from planes due to poor wardrobe choices abound, and, for most of them, the trouble occurred after they made it through the screening process. Still, agents may pull you aside for additional screening if they perceive a threatening or questionable message on your slogan T-shirt. Bottom line: If you woudn't wear it to a family-friendly restaurant or even to church, don't wear it for air travel.
(Photo: ...love Maegan via flickr/CC Attribution)
Loose clothes aren't prohibited. But travelers sporting baggy apparel, such as droopy pants, flowy skirts, bulky sweatshirts, or even loose garments worn for religious purposes, may be subject to extra screening. According to the TSA, you might be selected for a pat-down inspection if your clothes are "large enough to hide prohibited items."
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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title What Not to Wear in the Airport Security Line.
Posted by Caroline Costello on Monday, January 27, 2014
(Photo: Boy in Airport via Shutterstock)
Your plane ticket is your pass to far-flung destinations—on several conditions. Check your airline's contract of carriage; there, buried in pages of text, you'll find a list of violations that'll get you banned from boarding or even kicked off a plane. Contracts of carriage vary slightly by airline, but most contracts have some kind of language prohibiting passengers from doing anything that endangers the safety or comfort of fellow flyers. This is all subject to interpretation by airline employees, which is why we often see so many wild stories of passengers getting the boot. So what, specifically, shouldn't you do? The following seven behaviors should be avoided at all costs.
(Photo: Seatbelt via Shutterstock)
Refuse to Buckle Your Seat Belt
If for any reason a passenger can't or isn't willing to buckle his seat belt, flight crew will probably show him the door. It happened to a three-year-old boy who wouldn't buckle up on an Alaska Airlines flight. It also happens when passengers are too large to fasten their seat belts. Travelers are required by federal law to wear a seat belt on some phases of all flights. And until recently, passengers of size could bring a seat belt extender onboard to help with fit. But in August, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) declared that flyers must be able to buckle up using the aircraft's original seat belt or with an extender offered by the airline, if available.
(Photo: Crying Child via Shutterstock)
Bring a Crying Kid
Passengers who get loud, become aggressive, and spoil the comfort of fellow flyers could get kicked off a plane—even if they're still in diapers. The crew of a JetBlue flight to Turks and Caicos forced the family of a tantrum-throwing toddler to debark the plane in March 2012. According to SmarterTravel editor Caroline Morse, "The parents tried to hold the screaming toddler down in her seat with the seat belt on, but the pilot and flight attendant made the decision to kick the family off the flight and leave without them. Undoubtedly, the people trapped near that toddler on the plane were grateful, but the Daily Mail reports that the family ended up paying more than $2,000 for a new flight and hotel room for the night."
(Photo: Shocked Man via Shutterstock)
Wear Something Inappropriate
Airlines generally leave it up to flight attendants to judge whether or not a passenger's attire is inappropriate for wear in the air. As a result, instances of flyers getting the boot due to unsuitable attire are relatively common. In the past, we've reported on flight crews banning passengers for wearing low-cut tops, rocking baggy pants, and sporting offensive T-shirts. For more in-flight style tips, read Nine Things Not to Wear on a Plane.
(Photo: Janitors via Shutterstock)
Get in a Fight
When a man smacked a fellow passenger in the head on a United Airlines flight to Ghana in 2011, the pilot, like a parent driving a car with feuding kids in the backseat, turned that plane around. But unlike your average parent, the pilot had the wherewithal to call up a few fighter jets as backup. The Air Force was summoned and two jets trailed the plane as it circled for half an hour, burning off fuel. The aggressive flyer, naturally, was removed from his flight once the plane touched down.
Here's the most unbelievable part of this story: The whole brawl started when one passenger reclined his seat into the space of the guy behind him. Some travelers might even argue he deserved the smack.
(Photo: Phone on Plane via Shutterstock)
Ignore the Request to Turn Off Electronic Devices
You've undoubtedly heard the notorious tale: Alec Baldwin was kicked off a flight for neglecting to pause his game of Words with Friends when the flight crew requested that passengers power down their devices. It's important to note, however, that you likely won't be removed from your flight if you simply forget that your device is turned on and your phone rings on the tarmac. It's not that easy to get booted. But Baldwin seemed determined. He reportedly became aggressive and ignored repeated requests before the captain decided to leave the 30 Rock star behind.
(Photo: Pig via Shutterstock)
Neglect Your Hygiene
You don't have to wear a naughty T-shirt to offend fellow passengers. Simply skip the soap. A few years ago, a flyer did just that, and ended up on the wrong side of the boarding gate. According to ABC News, when passengers on an Air Canada Jazz flight to Montreal complained about a foul-smelling flyer, the malodorous man had to forfeit his flight before departure. A person on the flight told ABC News, "People were just mumbling and staring at him. The guy next to me said, 'It's brutal.'"
(Photo: Drunk Woman via Shutterstock)
Drink Too Much
Visibly intoxicated passengers aren't welcome on flights; most airline contracts of carriage contain clauses that specifically state this. US Airways' contract, for example, states that the airline can refuse transport to passengers who "appear to be intoxicated or under the influence of drugs."
Some people apparently missed the memo, like country singer John Rich (of Big & Rich), who was removed from a Southwest flight for being too drunk to fly, and an intoxicated Bahraini prince, who lost his seat on British Airways. (It's safe to say that these airlines offer no special treatment for the rich and famous.)
Even if you appear drunk but are really sober, your ticket could be in jeopardy. In July, we reported on a sober woman who was removed from a Southwest flight because a gate agent thought she was intoxicated. After being booted, the women obtained a toxicology test from a hospital, and her blood alcohol level was less than 0.003. Nevertheless, she wasn't permitted to board that initial flight.
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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title Seven Ways to Get Kicked Off a Plane.
Posted by Caroline Costello on Wednesday, January 22, 2014
"Don't talk to me."
That is what I say to seatmates on planes and trains. I don't use my voice, though. I express a preference for solitude by hiding my face in a book or wearing earbuds. A bitchy resting face also helps me communicate—without ever having to talk—that I don't want to say anything to you, stranger. Pretend I'm not here. But the person in the adjacent seat doesn't always receive the message.
Social cues that speak so loudly to some simply fly over the heads of others. And so it's inevitable that, as a person who travels, you will encounter a frightening "new friend" who comes on too strong when you're desperate to stare out the window during your flight and quietly contemplate dinner options.
You'll have to handle the situation with grace, like the respectful adult that you are, or be stuck in a confined space for many hours with the random, possibly unstable person that you've offended. You can become a martyr, sacrifice yourself to the god of inane small talk, and engage. Or you can be very mean and deflect conversation by coming across as a terrible person.
But there's another way—a peaceable middle ground. I asked Jay Remer, an etiquette consultant based in St. Andrews, New Brunswick, who is known as Canada's "Etiquette Guy," for advice on how to cope when one's airplane seatmate insists on chatting, having no cognizance of annoyed facial expressions and attempts to feign sleep. First, Remer told me that both parties need to "take responsibility for this interaction." It is disrespectful, said Remer, to dance around the issue because you're afraid of what will happen.
You knew this was coming, guys. The appropriate course of action is direct communication.
"People need to have enough self-confidence in themselves to be able to say how they feel about something without self-doubt," said Remer. "If someone is bugging you, say, 'I just want some time to myself.' [If you] give a reason why, make sure it has nothing to do with the other person. Because we're human beings, we tend to take things personally every chance we get."
Don't want to give a reason for your antisocial ways? You don't have to. According to Remer, "You should never have to give an explanation. If I didn't want to connect, I would say, 'You know what, I just need to have some time. I just cannot get into a conversation right now. Thank you for wanting to connect with me, but I have so much on my mind right now, I need a few minutes to collect my thoughts.' That'll do it."
That'll do it because your seatmate probably isn't Ted Bundy. He's just lonely. Or very outgoing. Either way, you need to have the talk if you want to squelch his hopeful banter.
What's your strategy for dealing with a chatty seatmate?
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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title How to Make Your Chatty Seatmate Shut Up (Without Violence).
Posted by Caroline Costello on Tuesday, January 21, 2014
(Photo: bradleygee via flickr/CC Attribution)
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) maintains a complex system of rules for transporting both carry-on items and checked bags on flights. Some objects are prohibited on planes at all times, while others may be checked and not carried, or vice versa. Confused? "When in doubt, leave it out," says the TSA.
Note: This article is presented to you as part of our "Flashback Friday" initiative, in which we highlight some of the most popular stories from our archives. It was originally published by SmarterTravel in December 2012.
(Photo: Gnilenkov Aleksey via flickr/CC Attribution)
Jewelry and Valuables
Of course, it's not probable that your checked bag will be lost by an airline. According to a report by SITA, a company that gathers statistics for airlines, .012 percent of passengers' bags were reported damaged, lost, or delayed in 2010. But if you happen to fall in that .012 percent and your checked bag contains an antique watch, a family photo album, or your wedding ring, you're in trouble.
Most carriers require passengers to submit claims forms when bags are lost. Your airline will then tally the depreciated value of the contents of your missing suitcase—if your claim is accepted, that is. Airlines will pay no more than $3,300 per passenger for bags lost on domestic flights. All in all, it's unlikely that you'll receive compensation equal to the full value of your lost possessions.
We recommend leaving jewelry and other valuables at home when traveling, but if you must bring these items on the road, be sure to store them safely in your carry-on bag.
(Photo: swimparallel via flickr/CC Attribution)
Identification, Passports, Boarding Passes, and Essential Documents
All necessary documents, whether they're work or insurance papers or other sensitive information, should be kept with you in your carry-on bag. But there is another solution—back it up. If you plan to put papers of importance in checked luggage, keep copies (either hard photocopies or copies on a flash drive) on your person.
Bottom line: Any important documents you've packed in your checked luggage should be photocopies, not originals. And any documents that include sensitive or private information should be kept out of your checked luggage altogether.
(Photo: jollyUK via flickr/CC Attribution)
Cash and Credit Cards
All checked bags are screened electronically, but select checked bags are opened by TSA agents and screened by hand. When packing a checked bag, be aware that a security agent—a stranger, essentially—may be rummaging through your things at some point. There have been reports of TSA workers stealing electronics, money, and other valuables from passengers' bags; as expected, such occurrences are rare. But as a precaution, your cash, checkbook, and credit cards should be kept with you in your carry-on bag.
There's always a chance that your suitcase could get damaged en route, too. If a busted zipper befalls your bag, any packed cash will be easy pickins for thieves.
(Photo: Janitors via flickr/CC Attribution)
Laptop and Electronics
Take it from the TSA. A representative from the agency offered this advice for flyers: "Electronics ... should be packed in carry-on luggage because they are typically fragile, expensive, and more prone to breaking if transported in checked baggage." The threat to your electronics is two-fold: you need to protect your devices from burglary (see previous slide) as well as breakage. No matter how many beach towels you've wrapped around your laptop, it's still at the mercy of baggage handlers and bumpy flights while in transit.
(Photo: glasseyes view via flickr/CC Attribution/Share Alike)
Lighters, Matches, and Flammable Items
The TSA has a handy checklist of prohibited items on its website. Some of the objects on the list are as obscure as they are obvious: gun powder, hand grenades, tear gas, vehicle airbags (packed to protect a checked laptop, perhaps?). But items of note include lighters, matches, and flammable objects, which anyone going on a camping trip (or travelers who smoke) might need to pack.
Lighters without fuel may be packed in checked luggage. However, lighters with fuel may only be packed in checked luggage if they're in a Department of Transportation-approved case; an example of this is the Zippo Air Case. Matches are prohibited in checked baggage, and flammable items, such as paint or liquid fuel, should be avoided as well.
(Photo: Akirahnu via flickr/CC Attribution/Share Alike)
All of Your Clothes
If your luggage disappears into the mysterious black hole of missing checked bags, you'll thank your former self for putting a clean pair of underwear and some socks aside in your carry-on bag. An entire outfit—enough to get you through a day or two at your destination in case your airline loses your suitcase—is even better. Other daily essentials, like a toothbrush, a comb, key toiletries (though liquids must be in containers no larger than 3.4 ounces), and whatever else you might need if your bag gets lost should be placed in your carry-on as well.
(Photo: CarbonNYC via flickr/CC Attribution)
There's a theme here. If you can't live comfortably without it, don't pack it in your checked bag. That old cliche, "better safe than sorry," should be lingering in the back of your mind when you're organizing your luggage. Accordingly, prescription drugs are best kept on your person.
Passengers are permitted to bring liquid medications onto planes, even if they exceed the 3.4-ounce limit for carry-on liquids. But you'll need to officially declare your oversized liquid medications when going through the checkpoint. Tell a security officer stationed at the checkpoint that you're carrying liquid medications, and hand them over for inspection. It helps to have a doctor's note or a medical ID card, but it's not required. The TSA also suggests that travelers label medications to facilitate the screening process.
(Photo: AMagill via flickr/CC Attribution)
Don't blame it all on the baggage handlers. Sure, they've been known to bust up a prized possession or two. But baggage handlers, under pressure to load hundreds of bags onto a plane in a short amount of time, are just trying to get your flight off the runway—with your luggage onboard. Sometimes this necessitates a good throwing arm. (Read more in Confessions of an Airline Baggage Thrower.)
Fragile items should always be packed in your carry-on bag. If you must bring home that bottle of red you picked up in Bourdeaux, use a product like the VinniBag, which will protect the contents of your bag in case the bottle breaks.
(Photo: adpowers via flickr/CC Attribution)
If you bucked the digital trend and snap travel photos on a camera that takes film, steer clear of storing undeveloped rolls in your checked bag. The X-ray machines that the TSA uses to screen checked bags can damage film. Instead, put your film in your carry-on bag and ask the TSA agent at the security checkpoint to inspect your film by hand. The TSA suggests that travelers pack film in clear canisters or clear plastic bags to expedite the inspection process, but this isn't required.
(Photo: Wesley Fryer via flickr/CC Attribution)
Food and Drink
According to the TSA, flyers should avoid putting food and beverages in checked bags. Passengers aren't prohibited from storing chow in checked bags, but it's a wise suggestion nevertheless. Bottled drinks are likely to explode or crack in transit, thus ruining the cashmere sweater tucked in your bag. And if your flight is delayed or your luggage gets lost for a while, your packed food might spoil.
If you're traveling internationally, you may be prohibited from bringing food to your destination. Each country has its own rules about what kinds of foods can be brought across borders. Check the embassy website of the country you're visiting for more information.
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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title 10 Things You Should Never Pack in Your Checked Bag.
Posted by Caroline Costello on Friday, January 17, 2014
(Photo: suvodeb via flickr/CC Attribution)
The idea of traveling to certain sophisticated, opulent, or far-flung destinations may incite concerns about exorbitant hotel costs and $15 pints of beer. It's true: Some cities and countries are predominantly more expensive to visit than others. But don't let that stop you. There are ways to stretch your dollars even in places where a high cost of living or an unfavorable exchange rate threaten a well-planned budget. Here are some tips and tricks for stretching your dollars, pounds, and yen in seven notoriously pricey places around the world.
New York, New York
The prohibitive cost of accommodations in New York City is often the number-one financial factor that discourages visitors. The average daily room rate in the Big Apple in 2012 was $281, according to nycgo.com.
How to Save: Two words: vacation rentals. Do a search on Airbnb or our sister site FlipKey, and you'll find rooms or apartments for far cheaper than the average going hotel rates. You'll probably get more space, too. For example, we found an entire one-bedroom apartment in Manhattan, available for $178 per night for a weekend in April.
Don't say we didn't warn you, though: Some of the properties listed for New York may be illegal. Zoning laws or leases may forbid short-term rentals; tenants will often just ignore the rules and rent anyway. Rent at your own risk. If you're not comfortable with the renting situation, a good bet is finding an off-season bargain on accommodations.
(Photo: Gabriel GM via flickr/CC Attribution)
With its pristine mountain air, clear lakes, and opulent palaces, Switzerland is as gorgeous as it is expensive. The country is home to the world's priciest hotel room: the 75,000 franc Royal Penthouse Suite at the Hotel President Wilson. (Fittingly, the suite contains one of the biggest TVs in the world.) American travelers will generally find that accommodations, as well as meals and public transportation, are much more expensive than those in the States. The Swiss standard of living is very high, local wages are kept high, and the Swiss economy is structured in a way that restricts competition and drives up costs of goods and services.
How to Save: One surprisingly affordable find in Switzerland is the locally made wine. The Swiss export a very small percentage of their wine, yet this rare spirit is sold for low prices at local wine shops and vineyards. I've spotted some high-quality vintages in the Lake Geneva region for the equivalent of $10 or $15. Many vineyards offer complimentary wine tastings and tours.
Also, go to the beach. This landlocked country has some phenomenal beaches—on par with some of the famous European Rivieras bordering the ocean. Most of them are free to visit.
Finally, cross the border. If you have Eurail pass (an excellent way to save on ground transportation), adding a few day trips to nearby Germany, Italy, or France can cut costs—albeit only slightly, as there's still that unfavorable exchange rate to contend with in other parts of the Continent.
(Photo: OiMax via flickr/CC Attribution)
A recent cost of living survey recognized Tokyo as one of Asia's most expensive cities. Moreover, it's not cheap to get to from the States. Airfare prices to Asia are often set at higher rates for the many business travelers who fly these routes, and so it's less common to see airfare sales featuring discounted prices geared toward leisure travelers.
How to Save: Instead of booking a nonstop from an East Coast city to Tokyo, look for transpacific flights departing from the West Coast and add a transcontinental coach ticket on a low-cost carrier. For travel in March, we spotted round-trip prices from Boston to Tokyo for around $1,500 via Kayak. Prices—for the same dates—for travel from Los Angeles to Tokyo came in at around $800 round-trip. Add a nonstop from Boston to Los Angeles on JetBlue for $159 each way (it wasn't difficult to find this price for a midweek flight in March), and you'll save hundreds.
When you've arrived? According to the New York Times, budget hotels aren't difficult to come across in Tokyo. This guide to saving suggests riding the subway and finding food at bargain lunch spots (when English menus weren't available, the author "pointed, asked questions, and hoped for the best") and convenience stores.
(Photo: vasilennka via flickr/CC Attribution)
London, one of the most expensive cities on the planet, is so exclusive that it encompasses three of the world's 10 priciest real estate properties. For Americans, an unfavorable exchange rate, very high sales tax, and a prevalence of super-rich residents (driving up prices for goods and services such as accommodations and meals) make a trip to this vibrant, culturally robust city a financial challenge.
How to Save: The big trick that will help in 2014 is finding affordable airfare; other than accommodations, this is going to be your largest expense. With new low-cost transatlantic airlines like Norwegian and WOW promising to undercut major carriers' prices in the coming year, it will likely be easier to pick up an affordable plane ticket to the British capital this spring and summer.
(Photo: jikatu via flickr/CC Attribution/Share Alike)
Australia's exchange rate is trading at a low rate against the dollar, but the expensive long-haul flight and high cost of living in Sydney continue to create a cost-prohibitive environment for travelers.
How to Save: Plan free activities. Don't pooh-pooh us for being obvious here. Sydney's special because there are many once-in-a-lifetime, amazing, photo-worthy excursions that are totally free. Go to the Royal Botanic Gardens, walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge, spend time on local beaches, browse Paddington Markets—you get the idea. Lonely Planet has a great list of 20 free things to do in Sydney.
(Photo: Frank Schulenburg via flickr/CC Attribution/Share Alike)
San Francisco, California
There's been buzz lately about the skyrocketing cost of living in San Francisco. According to some sources, in 2013, the City by the Bay surpassed New York as the most expensive metropolis in the U.S in which to live. Hotels are, accordingly, costly. Add transcontinental airfare for those residing in the eastern part of the country, and a San Francisco holiday can be a budget buster.
How to Save: Since San Francisco is served by so many low-cost carriers—AirTran, Southwest, JetBlue, and Virgin America—it's possible to find very affordable fares if you know when and where to look. Check for airfare sales on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, which is when these airlines often release discounted-ticket promotions.
Nix the car rental, book a stay in the city, and use your feet or public transportation to get around. It's expensive to park in San Fran's more central neighborhoods, so staying in a cheaper hotel farther afield and then driving into the city might not be the best budget-friendly strategy.
(Photo: Christian Haugen via flickr/CC Attribution)
Almost everything is terribly expensive in Norway, from accommodations to food to tours. A pint of beer, for example, costs $14.10, according to Business Insider. And the Economist's Big Mac Index places Norway's burger at the top of the list—at a whopping $7.51, or about 46 kroner.
How to Save: Flights to Oslo, fortunately, aren't generally too expensive for American travelers. Norwegian and Icelandair are two carriers that offer tickets on the lower end of the European pricing spectrum. A recent search on the Norwegian website turned up flights from New York to Oslo in March for as low as $180.80 each way; that's a pretty amazing price.
In Norway, we recommend pulling out the classic budget-travel tricks: renting an apartment with a kitchen, cooking your own meals, and using public transportation or a bike-share program. Or, if you're on board with an outdoor adventure, you could even camp or caravan; the experience might not be as rugged as you'd expect. At the seaside "five-star" campsite Kristiansand Feriesenter Dvergsnestangen in Southern Norway, family-sized cabins have million-dollar ocean views and costs run the equivalent of roughly a few hundred dollars per night.
Do you have any advice for saving money in these or other notoriously expensive destinations?
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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title Seven Notoriously Expensive Destinations (and How to Go for Cheap).
Posted by Caroline Costello on Monday, January 6, 2014
(Photo: Woman via Shutterstock)
Holiday gift guides are here in droves, but many are missing some of the most unusual—dare we say, innovative—travel products around. Whether you're looking for a gag gift or you want to solve a specific problem and don't give a hoot what people think, these embarrassing travel gadgets and gizmos are right up your alley. Though they might cost you a bit of dignity, the following items are geared to make life a little easier for travelers.
This is a female urination device (let's be honest—it's a funnel) that allows women to pee standing up. (Enter requisite Sigmund Freud joke here.) The makers of GoGirl claim that "life's greatest adventure shouldn't be finding a bathroom." Why on Earth would you waste time looking for the nearest bathroom when you can cower behind a bush while using a hot-pink silicone funnel to pee? Buy it for $12.99 from GoGirl.
Unlike its sister moist-towelette products like Wet Ones, Tush Wipes didn't get the memo about delicate subtlety. If your conspicuously labeled packet of butt cleaner falls out of your purse, best deny ownership. Buy them for $8.85 from Magellan's.
(Photo: On the Cuff)
On the Cuff
Among life's most devastating problems, from having too much goat cheese on your salad to forgetting your Wi-Fi password, water running down your arms while washing your hands probably tops the list of human atrocities. But wallow in misery not. These absorbent, packable bracelets are here to save the day. For $8.99 (plus $6.99 for the display stand, which is absolutely necessary), you will never have to suffer the humiliation of slightly damp sleeves again.
You've fallen into the airplane toilet again. Blame traditional underwear. Fortunately for you, there's Claspies, underwear with clasps on its sides that allow you to quickly escape from your skivvies without picking up your feet and tumbling into the bowl. According to the product website, "While traveling, there is nothing better than putting on a fresh pair of panties in the middle of a long journey! Thank you, Claspies." There is also nothing better than not falling into the toilet. Thanks again! Buy a pair for $14.95 from Claspies.
For a safe, stylish, in-flight face-sleeping experience, choose the SkyRest travel pillow. This wedge-shaped pillow allows tired travelers to sleep while leaning forward, blocking seatmates from either looking out the window or gaining access to the aisle. But who needs friends in dreamland? Buy it at SkyRest.com.
The problem with creepy face masks is that they're not colorful enough. But with pretty, printed Vogmasks, you can let your personality shine while blocking all the toxic particles and dangerous impurities that your naked face absorbs with every breath. Get various colors to match all your different hazmat suits. Buy it for $20 from Vogmask.
Helpy Carry-on Harness
Look at this woman. She has too much to carry, so she has decided to strap her suitcase on her back via the Helpy Carry-on Harness. While you're having a chuckle at her expense, she's answering her email, sending witty text messages, and accomplishing important business tasks—all with the aid of a product borrowed from a large dog. Let's hope she takes it slow around sharp turns and over hills. Buy it for $24.95 from MyHelpy.com.
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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title 7 Surprising Travel Gadgets That Actually Work.
Posted by Caroline Costello on Sunday, January 5, 2014
To say there's room for improvement in the airline industry is a clear understatement. Between baggage fees, customer-service fails, and hellish flight delays, most carriers consistently keep our expectations at tarmac level. It's about time for the airlines to do a better job, and we know just where they should start. Across the board, all airlines should make an effort to execute the following 10 ideas.
Do you agree? Tell us what you think airlines should improve upon in the comments.
Sell a la Carte Tickets
Do Amtrak does it. A few airlines, like JetBlue, AirTran, and Southwest, do it too. They have an a la carte pricing scheme. They sell one-way fares that cost the same amount per mile as round-trip tickets. Still, the major legacy carriers continue to sell us one-way or open-jaw tickets at exorbitant, cringe-worthy prices. The reason they pummel us like this is because business travelers often buy one-way tickets and their companies will eat the costs. Therein, the legacy airlines force all one-way travelers, whether flying for business or pleasure, to try tricky schemes like buying throwaway or hidden-city tickets in order to find affordable fares. Let's stop playing these silly pricing games, airlines. Give us fair fares.
Offer Electronic Boarding Passes
Some airlines have check-in systems that allow passengers to use electronic boarding passes stored on their mobile devices at select airports. This is a small effort, but it makes a big difference. It's often difficult for travelers to find a printer, and there's not always time to wait in line at the check-in desk at the airport. Most major carriers now offer the option to download a mobile plane ticket, but some are still shackled to paper: Spirit and AirTran come to mind. Southwest is working on it and says it will offer mobile boarding passes by next year.
Arrive on Time
Airlines: You have one job. Get us to our destinations on time. Some carriers do this a lot better than others, and we're going to name names. A recent Air Travel Consumer Report from the Department of Transportation (DOT) showed that only about three-fourths of Southwest flights arrived on time in September 2013. In other words, if you were flying on Southwest this past September, there was a one-in-four chance that your flight would be delayed. Not cool, Southwest. According to Skift, Southwest says its poor performance was the result of "unexpected summer weather" and that the airline is "working on schedule tweaks that will improve our performance in the next few months."
Let Us Surf the Web for Free
Take away the dirty seatback screens and give us a fast, decent Internet connection. I would much rather stream Netflix, take care of some emails, and beef up my Pinterest boards than watch lousy in-flight movies or old Two and a Half Men episodes. So far, JetBlue is the only airline to provide an in-flight Internet connection that rivals at-home speeds. For now, the ViaSat-powered Wi-Fi is free (hurray!), but it's only available on a few of the aircraft in JetBlue's fleet. Some other airlines use expensive, slow systems like GoGo, but, overall, in-flight connectivity is still few and far between in the industry.
Refund Fees When Our Bags Are Delayed
This is the ultimate slap in the traveler's face: The airline makes you pay, oh, $25 for a checked bag. Then the carrier loses your suitcase for a few days and practically ruins your trip. You eventually get your bag back, but you're still out 25 bucks. It's rubbish. Airlines must refund bag fees if they permanently lose your luggage, but carriers aren't required to give back the fees if you get your stuff back … eventually. And most won't. This isn't fair, and it needs to change.
"Stewardess" Richard Branson Serves Passengers On AirAsia (Paul Kane/Getty Images)
Have a Sense of Humor
I was waiting to board a JetBlue flight when the gate agent called "all New York Giants fans" to board before the economy crowd. There was a quiet pause as we processed the instruction. Then we realized it was a joke and a smattering of laughter broke out. In that momentary silence, I sensed the brief uncertainty caused by a divergence from the somber air-travel routine. We're not used to color and comedy in the airport or on the plane. But it makes the experience worlds better. Humor helps us to relax, to treat others better, and to see the silliness in stressful situations. The airlines would do well to hire more gate agents, attendants, and customer-service reps with wit and vivacity.
(Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Participate in PreCheck
In order to be eligible for PreCheck security screenings, a traveler must be flying with an airline that has agreed to partner with the TSA. But not all airlines participate in the TSA's expedited-security program. As it stands, nine U.S. carriers are part of PreCheck; this limits the reach of the program. Even if you pay the $85 application fee and are approved to join PreCheck, you won't receive expedited screening when flying with, say, Spirit, Allegiant, Frontier, or AirTran. For those travelers who regularly fly these airlines or smaller regional carriers, PreCheck is a bust. It's a complex issue, but our desire is a simple one: We want a faster, more streamlined security process, no matter with whom we're flying.
Show Us All the Available Seats on the Seat Map
We're not stupid. We know, when it's time to choose our seats, that the airline website isn't being totally honest. According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, we're right: "Airlines routinely block coach seats for a variety of reasons, reducing the pool of available seats to reserve free of charge in advance when you book a trip. On many flights now, 30 percent to 40 percent of coach seats are held back by the airline for premium customers [or] people with special needs or [are] available only for a fee." That's pretty slimy. But there's a workaround. Most airlines release these hidden seats the day before departure. Check in for your flight 24 hours in advance, peek at the seat map again, and you might come across a better selection of fee-free seats that are not middle spots in the back of the plane. Or the airlines could show us accurate seat maps. Just a thought.
Allow Gate-to-Gate Device Usage
While we're happy that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) finally came to its senses and cleared gate-to-gate device usage on flights, we're impatiently waiting for all carriers to get on board. For now, only select airlines allow flyers to use mobile devices during takeoff and landing. (Before an airline can change its device rules, it must show the FAA that its fleet can withstand radio interference.) Once you've been on a flight during which passengers were permitted to listen to music or play games during takeoff, it seems absurd and regressive to be told to stow mobile devices when you fly on an airline that hasn't verified its fleet with the FAA.
Respond to Our Complaints
It's not easy to get an airline to respond to a complaint. It's even harder if you don't declare your concerns before a community of online followers. It often seems as if airlines will only respond when high-profile passengers get vocal in front of a significant audience, via Twitter complaints or Facebook callouts. Passenger complaints in the form of emails or phone calls can feel futile. In September, a British Airways flyer spent $1,000 advertising his complaint on Twitter when the airline lost his luggage. The man got an apology and his bag back. But really, passengers shouldn't have to use social media advertisements to get an airline's attention. Your Klout score should not make you more worthy of a customer-service rep's time than the passenger who is not an online "influencer." Hey airlines: If you worked on your basic communication skills and answered our emails, we wouldn't have to expose your faults on the Internet.
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This article was originally published by SmarterTravel under the title 10 Things We Wish All Airlines Did.
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