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Q. My family will be spending a week over Memorial Day 2014 at a home near Jackson Hole. Airfare from right now is over $600 round-trip from Atlanta. Fares to Idaho Falls are slightly less. What is the likelihood that the fares to either city will get less expensive closer to the departure date? I need seven tickets. What is the best way to get the best fares? I've read that fares are higher when big blocks of tickets after purchased. Is this something a travel agent could help with? Appreciate any advice that keeps me from spending a small fortune.
Jackson Hole image via Shutterstock
Q. Are solid toiletries such as solid deodorant and wax-like hair products subject to the TSA 100 ml/3.4 oz. limit for “liquids and gels” or are they exempt?
A. According to the TSA website, solid deodorants are exempt, but “paste”-like products must adhere to the limits, so even semi-solid hair grooming products must be placed in that quart-size plastic bag. This question is answered on the TSA blog here. By the way, if you're flying through security at British airports, they're particularly strict about the size of the clear plastic bag.
Image via Shutterstock
Q. My girlfriend and I are traveling from Mexico to Puerto Rico for the first time. We have a JetBlue flight from Cancun that connects in Fort Lauderdale. We'd like to spend some time in Miami on our way back to Cancun, so we wanted JetBlue to cancel the second leg of the flight from Fort Lauderdale to Cancun and just book a new ticket. JetBlue wants us to pay about 150 dollars for a change fee, as well as any extra cost if there is a difference. All I want is to cancel the second flight! This is a service I paid for that I no longer want, and I don't think I should be charged extra for that, but it's clear airlines think differently.
A friend suggested I could just not board the flight and that my luggage would be dropped at the airport. Is there a way I can do this? And is it even legal? This is my first time flying with JetBlue and also my first time with connecting flights.
A. If you decide to miss the final leg home and make other arrangements, it shouldn't be a problem so long as you don't check bags and take only carry-ons. By the way, this is called throwaway ticketing. We have heard cases where the airlines go after repeat offenders by clearing out frequent flyer accounts, but this is super rare.
Luggage image via Shutterstock
Q. We are flying from Los Angeles to Hong Kong this December and have heard horror stories about air pollution. Is it really that bad? How does it compare to LA’s air quality?
A. According to Wikipedia, “Air pollution in Hong Kong is considered a serious problem. Visibility is less than eight kilometers for 30% of the year. Cases of asthma and bronchial infections have soared in recent years... The pollution comes largely from coal-fired power stations and traffic, although a significant contribution comes from the tens of thousands of factories in China.... Hong Kong is approaching the record of being the darkest capital city in the world with the least amount of sunlight hours, just after Edinburgh.” 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. On November 1, Hong Kong’s air quality was an “unhealthy” 127 although Beijing was even worse at a “very unhealthy” 259 (300 and above is considered “hazardous”). In contrast, downtown Los Angeles on the same day was merely a “good” 42. If you have asthma or other health conditions when visiting Hong Kong, it’s wise to limit outdoor exercise and stay indoors as much as possible.
Beijing smog pic via Shutterstock
Q. If you purchase the excess valuation insurance for your trip, do you still have to produce receipts? It seems unreasonable to have to keep receipts for every item that you pack.
A. Most likely you'd be asked to produce receipts and when you check in you'll need to describe the contents of your bag. It's always a good idea to save receipts for things you purchase for insurance purposes in case you need to make a claim with your home or renters insurance, your credit card company, your airline or whatever. For those who don't know what excess valuation is and why you might need it, we'll gladly explain.
Receipt image via Shutterstock
Q. We will be flying from Philadelphia to Kalispell, Montana next August. The plan is to pay for half of our family's tickets with frequent flyer miles and half by cash credit card. Should we book now, 10 months ahead, because the most frequent flyer seats are available early on, or should we wait to see if the air fares might go down? Do they ever go down as the date gets closer?
Kalispell image via Shutterstock
Q. My husband and I will soon fly to my hometown for Christmas, as we do every year. He's a pretty big guy, and requires a seat belt extender when we fly. To save us from having to ask the flight crew, we ordered one of our own and it worked out fine for last year's trip. However my husband says he recently heard that these were banned. How can that be?
Seat image via Shutterstock
Q. Do any cruise lines offer air-inclusive fares, with the cruise fare and airfare packaged in one price? And if so, are they better prices than buying the cruise and airfare separately?
Cruise image via Shutterstock
Q. Now that the National Parks are open again, we’re planning a trip to Yellowstone for the first time. What’s the best airport to fly into, and who has the best airfares? We’re considering staying in the park itself at the Old Faithful Inn but we’ve read reviews on Trip Advisor that the creature comforts are not exactly luxurious (no TVs, no WiFI, no air conditioning, etc). Should we be concerned booking a stay there?
Yellowstone image via Shutterstock
Q. Is it better to fly directly from New York to Honolulu and connect to take an inter-island plane to Maui, or should I fly to the West Coast (LAX or SFO) and connect to Maui?
A. The best reason for flying direct to Honolulu is that inter-island flights leave almost every 30 minutes, so if there's a delay in your inbound flight to HNL it won't matter. Should you somehow misconnect in SFO or LAX it might not be as easy to get on another flight to Maui.
Maui image via Shutterstock