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T+L's Holiday Travel Survival Guide

holiday travel

Today officially kicks off the holiday travel season—are you ready?

An estimated 25 million people are traveling by air this Thanksgiving. That means crowded airports and full flights—all made worse by a winter storm that’s scheduled to hit the eastern seaboard later today. To help you ease your way through the crowds and anticipated flight delays, we’ve put together our holiday travel survival guide to get you from Point A to B—and home again. Bookmark it, print it, stash it in your carry on. Just don’t leave home without it.

Before you leave

Sign up for text and email alerts about flight delays and cancellations from your airline and services such as FlightStats. You can also get a sense of what’s happening with FlightStats’s compendium of delays and cancellations around the globe.

Use social media. Sometimes it can take a crucial few hours for a text message with information on a flight delays to arrive. Be proactive about checking airline Twitter handles for updates. You can also use Twitter to stay on top of weather updates (@weatherchannel) and breaking news (@cnnbrk).

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Do I Need to Lock My Bag When I Fly?

luggage lock

Last year, 26 million bags were reported mishandled worldwide; of those, 12.9 percent were pilfered or damaged, according to global aviation consultancy SITA. It may sound like a lot, but that still comes down to just about one bag per 1,000 passengers. Want to reduce the risk? Be sure to get the right lock—only those with Travel Sentry or Safe Skies emblems are TSA-approved.

45: The percentage drop in mishandled bags worldwide from 2007 to 2012.

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.com

Travel Advisory: Warnings vs. Alerts

Travel Advisory

The U.S. Department of State (DOS) issues a Travel Warning when it identifies a chronic and sustained threat to U.S. citizens in a given country. Sometimes it warns against all travel there; sometimes it simply informs people of the risk. Travel Alerts usually address problems of finite duration, such as elections, public demonstrations, or hurricanes. The DOS also issues Security Messages and Emergency Messages, depending on the situation. To get updates for a particular trip, sign up for the DOS’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) at step.state.gov.

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.com

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

traveling solo

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

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