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6 Things You Didn't Know About Your Boarding Pass

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1. The Bar Code
The International Air Transport Association mandated in 2005 that all 240 member airlines have to use boarding passes embedded with bar codes rather than magnetic strips—making it possible to print them at home and ushering in the era of paperless travel.

2. Flight Time
The practice of padding flight times to account for unpredictable tarmac traffic peaked around 2010. Airlines have since scaled back. This JFK-LAX flight went from six hours, four minutes in 2005 to six hours, 40 minutes in 2010. It’s now six hours, 15 minutes.

3. Security
The TSA’s PreCheck expedited security program continues its rapid expansion, adding new partner airlines and airports to its ranks. If you’re a member, scan your boarding pass to see if you’ve been granted PreCheck clearance for a given flight.

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If a Museum's Admission is "Recommended," Must I Pay it?

Metropolitan Museum of Art

A: According to Harold Holzer, senior vice president for public affairs at New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art (where the suggested admission is $25), the institution’s pay-as-you-wish policy is in line with its mission to remain fully accessible to the public. So if your income is limited, or you’re just planning to run in quickly to see a single painting, you should not feel obligated to pay the full amount. Holzer does point out, however, that it costs roughly $50 per visitor to run the enormous museum. It’s worth keeping in mind how much you value an institution—and how much it relies on you to continue operating—as you consider what amount you’d like to pay.

Amy FarleyHave a travel dilemma? Need some tips and remedies? Send your questions to news editor Amy Farley at tripdoctor@aexp.com. Follow @tltripdoctor on Twitter.


Photo © Sylvain Sonnet/Corbis

Are Dress Shoes With Jeans Acceptable at Most Restaurants?

fancy restaurant

A: Though casualization has largely taken hold worldwide, there are still some restaurants where jackets (if not ties) are required. Avoid jeans at places with two or more Michelin stars, even if no dress code is listed. And don’t forget about the emphasis on smart in “smart casual,” particularly in fashion-forward cities such as Paris and Milan.

4 of 6: The number of New York Times four-star restaurants in New York City that require jackets.

Amy FarleyHave a travel dilemma? Need some tips and remedies? Send your questions to news editor Amy Farley at tripdoctor@aexp.com. Follow @tltripdoctor on Twitter.


Photo by iStockphoto

Best Companies for Traveling Solo

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Q: Can you recommend any companies that are good for solo travelers? —Carolyn Hall, Chicago, Ill.

A: A couple of months ago, after my daughter had passed through the dependent stage of infancy, I started to get the itch to take a big trip. The problem, my husband and I realized, was that one of us was going to have to stay home to take care of our kids. (With two of them under the age of four, it’s not a job that’s easily outsourced.) I would be traveling solo.

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Low-Cost Airline to Fly from New York to London: Less than $250, One Way

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Remember when you could fly round-trip to London for less than $600? Nope? Faded from memory already? Recalling the good old days, Norway’s low-cost carrier Norwegian recently announced that it is launching service between London Gatwick and New York (JFK), Los Angeles, and Fort Lauderdale airports beginning next summer. The airline’s new 787 Dreamliners will fly the transatlantic routes starting July 2014. Norwegian is introducing these routes with special fares that are as low as $240, one way, from New York, and $321, one way, from Los Angeles. The introductory fares are being snapped up quickly, but we still found round trip tickets from New York for as little as $590 in August. See you at the pub?

Amy FarleyHave a travel dilemma? Need some tips and remedies? Send your questions to news editor Amy Farley at tripdoctor@aexp.com. Follow @tltripdoctor on Twitter.

Photo courtesy of Norwegian Air Shuttle ASA

Trip Doctor: How Can I Tell If My Vacation Apartment Rental Is Legal?

Apartment rentals

Question from Alison Frank, Washington, D.C.

A: The boom in short-term apartment rentals, fueled by companies such as Airbnb, FlipKey, and HomeAway, has made rooms everywhere from Paris to Portland available online. That’s great for travelers looking for affordable hotel alternatives. But the rapid growth of this aspect of the new “sharing economy” has outpaced the law in certain cities—leaving some hosts (if not their guests) in decidedly murky legal terrain.

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Department of Silver Linings: U.S. Passport Offices Remain Open Despite Government Shutdown

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After watching the federal government grind to an ignominious halt last night over the budget impasse, you could be forgiven for wanting to get out of town—as in, leave the country—for a while.

Fortunately, although national parks and monuments are now closed and thousands of FAA aviation safety inspectors have been furloughed (shudder), U.S. passport offices remain open and processing applications. If you’re traveling within the next two weeks and need to get a rush passport, you can still schedule an appointment at your nearest passport agency. Just call ahead to make sure that office isn’t located in a federal building. If it is, you may be out of luck.

Amy FarleyHave a travel dilemma? Need some tips and remedies? Send your questions to news editor Amy Farley at tripdoctor@aexp.com. Follow @tltripdoctor on Twitter.

Photo credit: Blue Jean Images / Alamy

Souvenir Blacklist—What Not to Bring Back

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Q: Are there any souvenirs that I can’t bring home with me? —Sarah Neff, Austin, Tex.

A: Everyone loves a good souvenir, but be mindful when shopping overseas—there are certain items that you simply cannot bring back with you because of U.S. import restrictions, or that you should avoid buying due to environmental and safety concerns. Here, a look at the souvenir-shopper’s blacklist.

Cultural Artifacts

The United States has import restrictions that protect the cultural property of countries whose art and antiquities have traditionally been vulnerable to theft and illegal trafficking. The Department of State has agreements with 16 nations, including Cambodia (covering Khmer archaeological materials: ceramics, stone, and metal articles) and Peru (restricting certain textiles, sculptures, wood, and metal articles from both the pre-Columbian and colonial periods). The U.S. has similar agreements to prohibit the trade of culturally significant items from China, Greece, Guatemala, Italy, and Mali, among other countries. (See eca.state.gov for more details.) Be aware that countries without U.S. import agreements may have their own export protections in place. Look into local permissions and permits for any relic or antiquity you plan to carry back to the States.

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Two New Ways to Speed Through the Airport

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Waiting in line—perhaps the most dreaded aspect—of the air travel experience—is improving by leaps and bounds this year at U.S. airports. For one, the TSA PreCheck expedited screening program, which is now available for international flights, is growing rapidly: the TSA has installed PreCheck lanes in 40 airports, with planned expansions into 60 more domestic airports by the end of 2013. Meanwhile, in-airport PreCheck enrollment centers will also soon start rolling out—opening up the program to all U.S. travelers willing to pay the $85 fee—no passport or frequent-flier membership required. The first will be in Indianapolis and Washington Dulles this fall, followed by some 300 locations across the country.

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Leaving Suitcases with the Bellman

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Some hotels put bags on absolute lockdown, in private rooms equipped with security cameras. (Hats off to Vegas.) Others simply stash luggage behind the bellman’s desk. Before dropping your bags, evaluate the setup and ask how the area is secured. And consider carrying with you anything valuable enough to go in the hotel-room safe.

$1 Million: The rumored value of jewelry stolen from a hotel room during the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.

Amy FarleyHave a travel dilemma? Need some tips and remedies? Send your questions to news editor Amy Farley at tripdoctor@aexp.com. Follow @tltripdoctor on Twitter.


Photo by Bernd Vogel / Corbis

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