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Q. I’ll be visiting Milan this summer. Any suggestions of what to do and see, and the best places to stay?
A. TripAdvisor lists 1,179 things to do in Milan, and it ranked #1 in a list of 52 Places to Visit in 2015 from the New York Times. You'll also find a useful “3-days in Milan” itinerary on TripAdvisor that hits all the tops attractions, such as the Duomo Cathedral and the Brera Picture Gallery. The city is a good jumping off point to visit Lake Como. It is an amazing place to go shopping for fashion, however, with hundreds of outlet stores. Typically, the summer sales start the first Saturday in July, so if you’re a shopaholic plan your visit for then. Milan is also a great culinary destination. TripAdvisor commenters’ number one hotel in Milan is Hotel Spadari al Duomo (closely followed by the Park Hyatt) although I was very impressed with the Four Seasons Milan on my last visit.
Q. When we flew Miami to Frankfurt to Edinburgh recently, we had to go through security in the Frankfurt airport before being allowed to fly on to Edinburgh, despite having gone through security at our original departure point of MIA. I wasn't expecting that. Next month we are flying Miami to Toronto to Zurich on Air Canada and are worried that we'll be required to go through security at the Toronto airport, as that will stretch our tight connection time of 90 minutes. Will we have to go through security a second time in Toronto or does Canada have different rules than connecting flights through Europe?
A. Not all airports require a second security check unless you leave one terminal and enter another. Frankfurt and also Tokyo are unusual in that even if you are remaining in the same terminal and just doing a connection without going "landside" you often go through security again. On the Singapore Airlines flight from Singapore to Los Angeles via Tokyo, even though you're just stopping for an hour, you still have to get off the plane and go through security a second time, despite the fact that you remain in the same terminal. The extra security check is just for added measure and I'm not sure why some airports do this and others don't, other than the Germans and Japanese are rather fastidious about procedure and safety.
It's possible that you will have to get your bags from the flight from Miami and go through security again, especially if changing terminals, depending on your flights. And personally I wouldn't leave just 90 minutes to connect, with delays possible and a terminal change possible.
Q. My husband and I were booked to go on a cruise earlier this month, which we had to cancel due to my husband having an accident four days before we were meant to depart. His doctors would not clear him to fly from Los Angeles to Seattle, and then onward to Vancouver for a cruise.
Unfortunately, we did not have travel insurance. Upon speaking to our rep with Holland cruises, she said there is no refund and no rescheduling allowed 30 days or less from departure. To add insult to injury (literally!) they would not refund the hotels we had booked for our stay in Seattle. Nothing apart from the taxes and port fees has been refunded.
Other than sucking it up, do we have any recourse? We have asked our Holland rep to put us in contact with their corporate department who deals with concerns/complaints. We have medical verification for the injury. Can we do anything else? I know most hotels will allow a 24 hour cancellation without charge. We gave Holland four days notice. Surely, they will be getting a refund from the hotels, and possibly other excursions/bookings, but we are not.
A. There still may be hope if you charged the cruise to one of the many credit cards that offer free, built-in cancellation coverage for scenarios just like yours. Many people don't read the fine print, but a number of credit card issuers actually provide a wide range of travel insurance whenever you use their cards to buy a trip. More about that here.
Q. I need to fly out early in the morning to reach my destination in time for a scheduled event, which is why I purchased a ticket for a 6 a.m. flight. Now I received an email that the airline has changed my departure time to 4 p.m. If I had wanted to leave at 4 p.m., then I would have bought my ticket for that time. Are airlines able to change your flight without your permission?
A. Airlines state in their contracts of carriage that schedules are not guaranteed, but you can ask to cancel your booking and get a refund without penalty, even on a non-refundable fare, if they won't reseat you on the original flight you booked. That's also in their contracts of carriage.
Q. I booked tickets for both myself and my mother for travel to India. My mother got sick two days before traveling and was admitted to the hospital. I was hit with $200 cancellation fee and denied a refund. I booked the ticket through CheapOair. Shouldn't I be entitled to a full refund?
A. I'm assuming you didn't buy travel insurance. If you booked with a credit card, there may still be hope! Some cards do offer protections for trip interruptions, delays, even lost luggage. You may find you're covered for the full cost of the trip as this explains.
Q. Whenever I ask about tight connection times, either from the airlines or tour companies, I'm told "they" state that time is sufficient to go from your plane to the next. Recently I was told that two hours is a sufficient amount of time at Heathrow to get off my plane in the international terminal, find the shuttle and proceed to my next terminal, have my hand baggage check, then go through a security screening, and then proceed to my gate. The Heathrow site states that you need a "minimum" of 90 minutes to accomplish this and that's once you are off the plane, which sometimes can take more than 15-20 minutes. Heaven forbid the plane is even a little late. Who is the "they" that come up with these times? Not everyone is a young airport Olympian.
A. 90 minutes really isn’t enough time to do a connection at Heathrow. Even if you’re in the same terminal, you’ll need to go through security again, get on a people mover if you’re in Terminal 5, and walk to the gate; and if you’re changing terminals that takes extra time. Two hours is pushing it, too, if your flight is late. It’s sometimes possible to ask the airline or your travel agent to build in a longer layover (taking the next flight out) without incurring a higher fare. That said, British Airways is pretty good at monitoring tight connections so when you leave your inbound flight you’ll often be met by employees who can help facilitate your transfer.
Q. Every once in awhile, I get an alert for a fare that states "330 day travel period". What exactly does this mean?
A. Legacy carriers sell fares for travel up to 330 days into the future, whereas the newbie "low cost" carriers do not. It doesn't necesarrily mean that the fare is available every single month and/or day of the year, but when we notice a fare we post has some availability for this long 330 day travel period, we pass the information along.
The lowest fares available on legacy carriers are not always available for a 330 day travel window, and even when they are, peak travel times such as December holidays and summer months mid-June through late August are often not included or are extremely scarce.
Q. How do the airlines set their prices? After seeing airfare for a particular schedule jump 100% from the time I started my search to when I actually tried to book it 3 minutes later, I was given the old "supply and demand...someone somewhere must have booked a seat in that span, and that caused the jump." How is that legal or possible?
A. We've heard this story time and again. Airlines only sell a certain small number of seats at their lowest fares. A flight might have a dozen different economy class fares, with a certain number of seats available at each fare. The price of each fare class can be set throughout the day, plus the airlines employ dozens of airfare analysts who do nothing all day but adjust the number of seats available in each fare class. That's why it's so important to check fares many times throughout the day and over a number of days if you can't find what you believe to be a reasonable fare. A fare might be $300 one minute, and the next it could be $200. Since airlines were deregulated in 1978, they are free to set whatever prices they wish.
Q. I recently flew to Florida and brought along my 7lb dog. I spent more on my pet's ticket than I paid for mine. He had to stay under the seat in his carrier, and the airline counted him against my carry-on allowance. How is it that a baby can fly for free, sit on your lap, and the parents are allowed to bring several huge baby bags? They even get to board first!
A. It does seem unfair, doesn’t it? But a handful of incidents over the last few years may help to explain why airlines charge such fees. A service animal pooped twice in the aisle, causing an emergency landing, which is very costly for an airline. In another incident, a pet escaped its cage and bit a flight attendant and another passenger. As you can imagine this probably led to a law suit and a hefty financial settlement. So although I’m sure your pet is the best behaved animal in the world, there are costs associated with having pets on planes. Some passengers are allergic and if an allergy results in an emergency landing or a claim against the airline, there are costs involved.
Q. My family and I are planning to visit Florence and Rome next August. I'd like to buy travel insurance so that we are all covered in the event one of us should become ill. We do have group insurance through work but overseas travel is not covered. I don't know what type to buy and I have read stories of people buying insurance only to have their claims later denied because of an honest misunderstanding of coverage. Please advise.
A. The number one reason why people make a travel insurance claim is illness or injury before the trip departs, and some credit cards have built-in insurance for this, so you might want to check your coverage (you have to buy the trip with the credit card). But travel insurance is often more convenient for covering illness that occurs abroad. Whatever policy you decide on, make sure it includes medical evacuation coverage to transport you back home to a hospital of your choice. You don't want to become ill and get stuck in a hospital abroad for several weeks. It can be very expensive to arrange a med-evac flight back home (as in $50,000 or more). You can use squaremouth.com or insuremytrip.com to compare travel insurance policies.
Above image via Shutterstock