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Q. Help! I l flew to the inlaws yesterday and seemed to have misplaced my license somewhere along the way. I tried calling the airport lost and found, but it looks like I may have really lost it forever. So here I am, stranded, with no license. Do I stand a chance of clearing security on the way home without it?
A. Oof, sorry to hear! It's not easy, but these things do happen. If you have any other forms of ID handy, of course that will help. According to the TSA, acceptable forms of identification include:
U.S. passport card
DHS "Trusted Traveler" cards (NEXUS, SENTRI, FAST)
U.S. Military ID (active duty or retired military and their dependents, and DOD civilians)
Permanent Resident Card
Border Crossing Card
DHS-designated enhanced driver's license
Drivers Licenses or other state photo identity cards issued by Department of Motor Vehicles (or equivalent)
A Native American Tribal Photo ID
An airline or airport-issued ID (if issued under a TSA-approved security plan)
A foreign government-issued passport
Canadian provincial driver's license or Indian and Northern Affairs Canada (INAC) card
Transportation Worker Identification Credential (TWIC)
Says the TSA, "If passengers are willing to provide additional information, we have other means of substantiating someone’s identity, like using publicly available databases." You can peruse the TSA's Identity Matters page for more info. All hope is not lost!
Q. I'm visiting family for Thanksgiving and would like to bring along foods from home. I have searched the web site of my airline, but can't seem to find any mention of food restrictions, or bans on carrying food aboard the plane. What's the verdict?
A. This is really more of a TSA issue, and is something they surely deal a lot with during the holidays. If you're bringing just ordinary packaged foods or unpeeled fruits, you should have no trouble at all. Just make sure it's packaged in some way, as you will be asked to send it through the X-ray machine.
There is some room for debate as far as gels are concerned, and the TSA suggests you tuck these items into your checked luggage, ship it, or skip bringing them altogether. Those items include:
Creamy dips and spreads
(cheeses, peanut butter, etc.)
Gift baskets with food items
(salsa, jams and salad dressings)
Oils and vinegars
Wine, liquor and beer
Cakes and pies are ok to bring, though the TSA warns such items are subject to extra screening. And a word to the wise, we've heard stories of screeners rejecting pies filled with what they deemed to be "gel." As with other TSA regulations, passengers are bound to encounter inconsistencies from airport to airport.
If you're traveling internationally, please be advised that rules for transporting foods and fruits will vary by destination.
Q. Yesterday I received an alert for Detroit-Istanbul and noticed that the flight connects in Toronto. Would it be possible for me to book this fare, but skip the Detroit portion of the flight, and just check-in at Toronto YYZ instead. It's much cheaper than flying straight from Toronto to Istanbul.
A. Nope. If you don't check in for your flight at the departure city, the airline will consider you a no-show, cancel your reservation, and you'd forfeit the whole fare. If you do decide to book this trip, flying from Detroit, there's nothing to really stop you from hopping off in Toronto on the return portion of the ticket, though airlines frown on that kind of a thing (throwaway ticketing it's called), and of course you'd have to carry on all your bags. Though if you were looking to earn miles on this trip, there's the chance you may find your mileage account closed out as penalty for pulling such a stunt.
Q. I am flying from Los Angeles to London Heathrow on December 24th. My flight arrives at 3:20pm. My friend and I have decided to spend Christmas in Amsterdam and plan on flying there out of London Heathrow the same day. How much time do you think I should allow for between flights at LHR? I understand there may be delays as it is a busy day to fly, and I'm not sure if I will have to go through customs upon arrival. I would like to take a 6pm flight to Amsterdam, allowing 2 hours and 40 minutes between flights. Any insight?
A. I would say this probably not enough connecting time, especially if there's a terminal change. Better pad it with 5 hours (or even 6!), building in time for any possible delays and those long security lines, just to be safe. It may sound extreme but it sure beats missing your flight.
Q. We are flying from New York to Shanghai this December and have heard horror stories about air pollution. Is it really that bad?
A. A very useful website to monitor air quality around the world is aqicn.org. Just add /city/(name of city) at the end of the URL to find a real-time air quality index. For November 12, Shanghai's air quality is listed to be at 173, considered to be unhealthy. Anything above 300 is hazardous. If you happen to suffer from asthma or other health conditions, you'd probably want to limit outdoor excercise and stay indoors whenever possible. You can also follow the US Consulate in Shanghai for additional updates regarding air quality during your stay.
Q. My family and I are considering a volunteer experience. I have read about "round-the-world" or RTW fares and “OneWorld” tickets that would allow us to add intermediate stops on the trip without massive costs. Where can I find further information?
A. A company called AirTreks specializes in pricing and selling such fares and as you noted they can be bought from the OneWorld airline alliance, which limits travel on OneWorld partners such as British Airways and American Airlines. RTW fares can indeed save money, especially when bought in business or first class compared to regularly published fares in those classes, although they come with some rather complicated restrictions.
Q. We'll be flying to California this summer and we've always dreamed of driving down to Los Angeles along the coast highway. Is it better to drive north or south on this route? My husband insists it's better to drive north, but I don't see the difference. We'd be starting in Yosemite National Park driving west to the coast. Where should be stop about half way along the route?
A. Most people prefer driving south, because you're closer to the scenery on the right hand side of the road and it's easier to pull over and stop. I suggest stopping over in impossibly charming Carmel, California. Although it's still quite a drive from there to LA, it can be managed in one day. The recently renovated Quail Lodge in Carmel Valley offers the best value in the area, with tasteful and spacious guest rooms and a great golf course among other amenities.
Q. What companies do you recommend for travel and health insurance for people over 75? I am 77 and my husband is 86, and we’re about the sign up for a three-week volunteer program in Albania. My husband looked into the Chartis travel insurance policies and was somewhat daunted by the costs.
A. You might want to start with a travel insurance comparison site such as Squaremouth.com. Because you’re probably on Medicare, you should know that your medical insurance won’t cover costs abroad. And although I would guess that your insurance premium might be $300-$500 or more per person (depending on the policy’s features) a for a three-week trip at your ages, even the most “platinum-clad” policies have limits on how much they’ll pay a foreign hospital for your medical bills. So I highly recommend adding on emergency evacuation insurance, so that you can be airlifted back to a U.S. hospital where your Medicare coverage will apply.
Q. Is there a certain day that's better than others for finding the cheapest airfare? Also, is further in advance better than trying to book a few weeks prior to departure?
A. Actually, Airfarewatchdog doesn’t believe that there’s just one single day to find a low airfare. Yes, it’s true that at least for now, Southwest usually launches sales on late Monday night/Tuesday morning, so by Tuesday other airlines have matched. Tuesday is definitely a good day to search for domestic airfares, at least on routes served by Southwest. And on Tuesday or Wednesday, most airlines have also posted their last minute weekend deals. As the week progresses, seats at the lowest fare may be grabbed by other travelers. But we've seen amazing deals pop up on Fridays, Saturdays, or even Thursdays. Sooo, we strongly urge readers not to look for airfares only on Tuesday.
A huge price drop on a route you want to fly could happen at any second, be it six months or even six days from your ideal departure date. Not only do the airlines constantly adjust airfares themselves, but they tweak the number of seats offered at the lowest fare. Someone could be holding the last seat at the cheapest fare and decide to cancel. Voila, the fare is yours if you were persistent enough to look.
The real key to finding a low airfare is to sign up for free airfare alerts-- from us, of course! Check several times a day every day of the week and you’ll be amazed at how often fares change on any given route.
Q. I received two emails this week alerting me to the fact that my flight times on United have been changed. My layovers en route to Boston went from about 90 minutes each to 3 hours. To me, the difference between getting into Boston at 12:05PM and 1:38PM is actually significant. Do I have any recourse here?
A. I don't think that's enough of a schedule change to request a refund or other compensation. And honestly, assuming you're connecting in Newark with chronic delays, even 90 minutes might be pushing it. If there's an earlier flight that has seats, you could call United and ask to be placed on it with no change fee. But airlines make it clear that schedules are never guaranteed.
Above image via Shutterstock