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Entries during 2015-11

Flying With Food: What's Allowed?

Q. I'm visiting family for Thanksgiving and would like to bring along foods from home. I have searched the web site of my airline, but can't seem to find any mention of food restrictions, or bans on carrying food aboard the plane. What's the verdict?

A. This is really more of a TSA issue, and is something they surely deal a lot with during the holidays. If you're bringing just ordinary packaged foods or unpeeled fruits, you should have no trouble at all. Just make sure it's packaged in some way, as you will be asked to send it through the X-ray machine.

There is some room for debate as far as gels are concerned, and the TSA suggests you tuck these items into your checked luggage, ship it, or skip bringing them altogether. Those items include:

Creamy dips and spreads
(cheeses, peanut butter, etc.)
Gift baskets with food items
(salsa, jams and salad dressings)
Maple syrup
Oils and vinegars
Salad dressing
Wine, liquor and beer

Cakes and pies are ok to bring, though the TSA warns such items are subject to extra screening. And a word to the wise, we've heard stories of screeners rejecting pies filled with what they deemed to be "gel." As with other TSA regulations, passengers are bound to encounter inconsistencies from airport to airport.

If you're traveling internationally, please be advised that rules for transporting foods and fruits will vary by destination.

Hop-on Hop-off Itinerary

Q. Yesterday I received an alert for Detroit-Istanbul and noticed that the flight connects in Toronto. Would it be possible for me to book this fare, but skip the Detroit portion of the flight, and just check-in at Toronto YYZ instead. It's much cheaper than flying straight from Toronto to Istanbul.

A. Nope. If you don't check in for your flight at the departure city, the airline will consider you a no-show, cancel your reservation, and you'd forfeit the whole fare. If you do decide to book this trip, flying from Detroit, there's nothing to really stop you from hopping off in Toronto on the return portion of the ticket, though airlines frown on that kind of a thing (throwaway ticketing it's called), and of course you'd have to carry on all your bags. Though if you were looking to earn miles on this trip, there's the chance you may find your mileage account closed out as penalty for pulling such a stunt.

Air Quality Advisory

Q. We are flying from New York to Shanghai this December and have heard horror stories about air pollution. Is it really that bad?

A. A very useful website to monitor air quality around the world is Just add /city/(name of city) at the end of the URL to find a real-time air quality index. For November 12, Shanghai's air quality is listed to be at 173, considered to be unhealthy. Anything above 300 is hazardous. If you happen to suffer from asthma or other health conditions, you'd probably want to limit outdoor excercise and stay indoors whenever possible. You can also follow the US Consulate in Shanghai for additional updates regarding air quality during your stay.

RTW Ticketing

Q. My family and I are considering a volunteer experience. I have read about "round-the-world" or RTW fares and “OneWorld” tickets that would allow us to add intermediate stops on the trip without massive costs. Where can I find further information?

A. A company called AirTreks specializes in pricing and selling such fares and as you noted they can be bought from the OneWorld airline alliance, which limits travel on OneWorld partners such as British Airways and American Airlines. RTW fares can indeed save money, especially when bought in business or first class compared to regularly published fares in those classes, although they come with some rather complicated restrictions.

California Coastal Highway: North vs. South

Q. We'll be flying to California this summer and we've always dreamed of driving down to Los Angeles along the coast highway. Is it better to drive north or south on this route? My husband insists it's better to drive north, but I don't see the difference. We'd be starting in Yosemite National Park driving west to the coast. Where should be stop about half way along the route?

A. Most people prefer driving south, because you're closer to the scenery on the right hand side of the road and it's easier to pull over and stop. I suggest stopping over in impossibly charming Carmel, California. Although it's still quite a drive from there to LA, it can be managed in one day. The recently renovated Quail Lodge in Carmel Valley offers the best value in the area, with tasteful and spacious guest rooms and a great golf course among other amenities.

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