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Entries during 2016-01

Passport Validity

Q. In all of my prepping for a trip to Spain next week, I forget to check the validity of my passport. And apparently it expires exactly one week after I leave Barcelona and return home to the US. Should I be worried?

A. Spain is included in the Schengen nations, which require that your passport be valid for up to 3 months beyond your intended stay. And elsewhere in the world, you're required to have at least 6 months! So, yes, be worried. You might find it worth the expense to apply for an expedited passport. Better safe than sorry.

The Single Traveler + Solo Supplements

Q. What's up with annoying single supplements imposed on solo travelers? While poking around online, I have found just one company -- GAP Adventures -- that doesn't penalize the solo traveler with these fees (which can be substantial). Can you direct me to any other companies that welcome (instead of penalize) us single folks?

A. As more and more travelers go solo, single supplements are a growing problem. A great article offering some solutions is this New York Times article on the topic. I've inspected the Norwegian Cruise Lines "studio" cabins mentioned in the article, and I think they're a great solution to this problem. The article mentions Grand Circle Cruise Line, but Grand Circle also offers land tours with very low or non-existent single supplements on many departures.

Filing a Claim

Q. Due to an unexpected illness, a person in my party cannot take the trip. We're only two weeks out from the travel date and did purchase travel insurance when we initially booked. How do we go about putting that insurance to use?

A. First, congrats for purchasing travel insurance. The most common reason for making claims on such insurance is indeed sudden illness, either experienced by the person buying the insurance or by someone in the traveling party. In order to file a claim, under the fine print of most policies the person who is ill must seek medical attention before the date of travel. You cannot simply tell the insurer that you or your traveling companion is ill and leave it at that. Create a paper trail showing a diagnosis and that medical treatment was sought.

A Difference in Search Results

Q. On a recent Friday afternoon, my friend and I booked our trips together using the same computer. She was going round-trip, I was going one-way, joining her on the return leg.

She booked her ticket through the airline site. Minutes later, I tried booking my one-way ticket on her return flight...BUT the flight was no longer available. I was finally able to find the exact flight on the same airline still available on Orbitz and booked through them instead.

I also called up the airline and was told that they update their system on Friday and although they try to do it in the middle of the night, sometimes it doesn’t work out. My question is:  Do you know what day of the week the major airlines update their information? In searching for the right time and price for this trip, we found that a lot of times the airline sites did not list flights that were available on other sites.  

A. There could be two things happening here. One, it’s possible that there was just a single seat available at the lowest fare on that flight, and your friend grabbed it.

The other possibility is that a lower fare lingered on Orbitz because of different updating schedules. New fares can be entered into computer systems at any time. It used to be that fares were updated for domestic flights three times a day during the week and once a day on weekends, but that’s no longer the case. Airlines can now push through airfare updates dynamically if they need to (for example, if there’s a fare error, they can correct it more quickly than 7 or 10 years ago).

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