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Entries during 2018-01

One-Way Ticket to Paris

Q. My grandson has purchased a one-way ticket from Los Angeles to Paris, via Copenhagen. Are there no restrictions against traveling abroad on a one-way ticket?

A. There's no rule against flying to the European Union from the United States on a one-way ticket. Passport control will sometimes question arriving passengers, asking where they plan to stay and for how long, etc., but it's perfectly fine to admit to having a one-way ticket just so long as it's made clear that there are no plans to stay beyond the allowed 90-day visa.

Fees for changing dates on a return ticket can be awfully expensive. If your grandson isn't quite sure when he wants to return home or even what city he'll be in when he does decide it's time to come home, flying on a one-way ticket could be the better option. Still, it's a good idea to have some loose plan of what cities he might want to return from, sticking to airports serviced by low cost carriers where it's easy to find a cheap fare back to the States (Copenhagen, Paris, London, Oslo, Stockholm...).

Baggage Fees Lower Online

Q. I recently flew from Atlanta to Chicago. According to the airline site which I checked before booking, one checked bag should have only cost $25. However when I checked my bag at the airport, I had to pay $30 for my one checked bag. Why the difference?

A. Some airlines will offer a slight discount on checked baggage if you purchase before your flight as opposed to waiting to pay at the airport during check-in. This practice is more common among low cost carriers such as Frontier or Spirit.

External Medical Devices and the TSA

Q My husband has a food tube implanted in his stomach. He uses nutritional supplements to feed himself several times a day. Do you know if there are any TSA rules governing wearing a food tube onto the plane? We are hoping to travel to Orlando the end of February and want to be prepared.

A. Passengers are allowed to bring external medical devices aboard flights, and this includes food tubes.

Your husband should alert a TSA officer prior to screening that he has a food tube and present the officer with a TSA notification card. It's also a good idea to bring along a note from a physician and any other medical documentation.

You'll find more info on traveling with external medical devices at

Blocked Out Seats

Q. Do airlines block out a large section of seats to make it appear there are fewer seats remaining? When our airline cancelled the final leg of our trip, we reviewed the airline website for flights returning a day before as well as after our original return date. None of the alternate flights offered adjoining seats. Yet, when we called the airline, they immediately assigned us two seats together in a section that appeared to be completely filled on their website. How likely is it that we will be reassigned seats?

A. Yep, some airlines do block out seats, even if the plane is half-empty, and sometimes a call to the airline will sort things out. They do this in part to accommodate last minute business customers who are flying on higher-priced “walk up” fares, to cater to their preferred frequent travelers, and also, in some instances, to entice consumers to purchase “premium” seat assignments for a fee. Even if you end up not sitting together, it’s always possible to ask fellow passengers to trade seats. A good strategy is to offer to buy the accommodating passenger a couple of cocktails on board, or bring along some Starbucks gift cards ($10 should do the trick) as a thank-you.

Booking Fares Without Specified Dates

Q. Is it possible to by an airline ticket without knowing the exact date of travel? I’m wondering if I can purchase a ticket ahead of time and decide later when I was going to fly.

A. You can always purchase an airfare and change the dates of travel, but the fare may change (either up or down) for travel on the date you decide to fly, and in most cases the cheapest fares will also require a change fee if you do decide to change dates (and you can be sure it won't come cheap!). Of course, you could buy an expensive fully-refundable fare and change the dates all you want, but I’m guessing that’s not what you had in mind.

If it suits your itinerary, there's always Southwest Airlines, which doesn’t charge a change fee. But again, the fare on your new dates of travel may be higher or lower than the fare you originally bought (you’ll either pay the difference if higher, or get a travel voucher for future travel if lower).

Post-Security Water Bottle Confiscated at Secondary Gate Screening

Q. On a recent flight back to the U.S. from Australia, I connected via Beijing. At the connecting gate, passengers were directed through a secondary security screening before being allowed into the gate area. The screeners took issue with a bottle of water I had purchased at the airport and refused to let me bring it on the plane, even though it was obvious I had purchased this water during my connection in the area beyond the initial security check. What's the big deal?

A. We've seen this happen before at secondary screenings in international airports. Bagged and sealed bottles purchased at Duty Free are allowed to pass while bottles of water purchased at the post-security newspaper shop are confiscated. Even more frustrating, there doesn't seem to be a whole lot of consistency around who allows what and when. It's a gamble and there's not much you can really do aside from politely surrender your water and board your flight.

Stolen Passport Copy

Q. Recently, my husband and I had photocopies of our passports removed from unlocked exterior pockets of our suitcases. They were put there in case of an emergency. We have traveled this way for over 20 years with no problems. This is the first time the documents have been stolen. The theft has already been reported to the managers of the hotels we stayed at while we were on tour.  We need advice on what to do now. Should we report the loss to the US passport agency?

A. There shouldn't be any real reason for concern, so long as long as it was only a photocopy and not the original. Still, it wouldn't hurt to report it anyway and, in the off chance that someone attempts to use your personal details for some nefarious purpose and you suddenly have to clear it up, at least you'll be able to refer back to having reported the theft. Again, just to be on the safe side.

While having a copy of your passport is a great idea, you might try keeping a scanned copy in Google Docs, Dropbox, or download the Mobile Passport app.

Longer Stays Better for the Environment

Q. So far, most of the fares you advertise seem to encourage air travel for short periods of time. Since air travel is so very destructive to the environment, why not list low fares that at least allow someone to stay where they are for longer, thus getting more “trip” for the exorbitant environmental cost?

A. Many of the fares listed do allow for longer stays, though the sample dates we use when listing fares are often for week-long stays. The only reason for doing this is that most Americans are given such limited vacation time, the average being just 10 days, with 2 weeks considered generous by most employers.

There are steps travelers can take to reduce their carbon footprints, such as flying during the day, booking economy seats (smaller seats, less fuel), and calculating emissions per flight and contributing an equal amount to environmental causes.

Charging Devices Abroad

Q. I should have thought about this sooner, but didn't. I'm traveling to Europe for the first time. We'll be traveling first to London, then Paris, Brussels, Cologne, Hamburg and, of course, back to London via rail. We will be staying in hotels in the cities. Do you think I need to buy/bring a device to convert to alternating electrical current to charge my iPad and iPhone?

A. You don’t need a converter (i-devices have them built in) but you'll definitely need an outlet adapter, although most hotels these days have “shaver” outlets in bathrooms that accept US-style plugs. I recently misplaced my adapter on a trip to London, and the front desk of the hotel was able to loan me one for a £10 deposit. Of course, you can find universal adapters available online or even for last minute purchase in the shops of any international terminal.

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