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Entries during 2015-04

Food Restrictions in Hawaii

Q. My family and I are traveling to Maui next week. We had planned on packing some specialty foods and snacks, but I had heard that Hawaii has strict rules about what can and cannot be brought in from outside. What exactly is off-limits?

A. As long as you're bringing processed items from the US, you should be fine. Fruits, veggies, and plant items are where you'll find most of the restrictions. For example, no outsider pineapples or coconuts or anything that could potentially damage the local varieties. You can take a look at the Hawaii Department of Agriculture's complete list of prohibited items here.

Above image via Shutterstock

Layover Sightseeing

Q. I have the possibility of arranging my trip so that there is an 8 hour layover in Amsterdam. I figure this is an opportunity to see the city. But is this worth it, considering all the problems with transportation, customs, and needing to be back for check in two hours early?

If the layover works, would this be a good idea to check my carry-on as baggage at the origin, so I don't have to lug it around Amsterdam?

A. There's probably just enough time to at least set foot in the city center. There's a high speed train that takes just 15 minutes each way to/from the airport. However, Schiphol is a massive airport and the lines can really slow you down, so plan to be back at the airport 3 hours ahead of flight time just in case. You never know what might happen.

You can leave your luggage in a locker at the airport for a fee, so no need to lug it.

Above image via Shutterstock

Booking in Biz Class

Q. I recently read that upgrading an economy ticket to business class is becoming increasingly difficult, and that it is actually easier to use miles to get a "free" award ticket – if you have enough miles. This indeed has been my own experience for the past four or five years.

In a similar vein, if you want to use the miles you have with a U.S. carrier (Delta, American, United) to travel on one of their foreign partner airlines, it seems easier to spend the miles for a free ticket than an upgrade. In many situations, you are not even eligible for an upgrade for a flight on which you could get the complete “free” award ticket –if you have the required miles.

Both of these situations puzzle me. My sense of logic suggests that either the U.S. airline or the foreign partner would prefer getting some money- i.e., the price of an economy  ticket,  rather than just a bunch of miles for an award ticket. What’s wrong with my sense of logic? Is there something about the economics of the airline industry that they would rather that we spend down our mileage balances than give them a bit more of our money? Or, is there some other explanation for these policies that escapes me?

A. I’m finding that it’s just getting harder to find biz/first award travel in general, unless you book very close to departure, when the airlines seem to open up premium cabin seats that they weren’t able to sell. Airlines have reduced the cost of business/first (both retail and corporate negotiated rates) rather than give them away. Some even allow bidding for these seats, and offer last minute paid upgrades at check in or a few days before. And with these new fully lie flat seats, which take up more room per passenger, there are simply fewer of these seats to go around, whether paid or free.

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