Q: How can I tell if an international carrier is safe?—Sarah Jones, Charlotte, N.C.
A: Even if we don’t like to admit it, the act of getting on a plane involves a great deal of trust: trust in the pilots and the flight crew, in the aircraft makers, in the airline, and—ultimately—in the authorities who approved the plane to fly. Domestically, this last responsibility lies with the Federal Aviation Administration, which is known for its exacting standards. But given that there’s no single organization with the authority to enforce safety around the world, things are more complicated abroad.
The easiest rule of thumb: book on foreign airlines that operate code-share flights with U.S. partners. (Global alliances—Star Alliance, Oneworld, SkyTeam—usually involve some form of code-sharing.) Before a U.S. airline can place its passengers on a foreign carrier, it must conduct a safety review of its partner and submit the results to the FAA for approval. As an added incentive, the U.S. airline may also be liable should anything happen to its passengers on a code-share flight.
A: Unless you get a very sympathetic agent on the line, you’re not likely to get your money back. But if you booked with a domestic carrier you’ll usually be able to cancel and receive a credit with the airline. Of course, you’ll have to pay a change fee—now a whopping $200 for most U.S. flights—and use the credit to travel by a certain deadline, often a year from the date that your original ticket was issued. Beware: some international carriers are not so generous and offer credit only in emergencies. And if you bought your ticket through a third-party website, such as Priceline or Hotwire, it may be subject to further restrictions. So always read the fine print.
Made with water-resistant canvas and full-grain leather, ONA’s stylish Brixton is designed to hold a camera, several lenses, and various accessories—all under an unassuming cover. When you’re not lugging photo gear, the adjustable foam panels can secure your laptop, while a padded shoulder strap makes it easy to carry heavy loads. $269.
It’s an incongruous sight: sleek white boxes on stilts above the rocky, windswept coast of a small island off northeastern Newfoundland. But the 29-room Fogo Island Inn is actually infused with the area’s DNA. It’s the vision of Zita Cobb, a local fisherman’s daughter turned tech entrepreneur, who launched an ambitious arts program on the island in 2006. For the new inn, Cobb tapped Newfoundland-born architect Todd Saunders, who also built the four on-site artists’ studios. The interiors were a collaboration between international designers (including the U.K.-based Ilse Crawford) and island craftspeople; quilters created bedspreads and other textiles, while boatmakers made furniture. Guests can learn about Fogo’s icebergs and humpback whale population from experienced guides, and mingle with residents at the restaurant and art gallery. What’s more, all profits go back to the community. In other words, it’s a white box with soul. $$$$
The global travel alertthat the U.S. Department of State issued at the end of last week has been met with a fair amount of criticism and head scratching. It’s vague. It’s frightening. And it’s not very clear what a traveler should do with this information.
The alert, which is valid through August 31, warns U.S. citizens about “the continued potential for terrorism attacks, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa.” It was prompted, according to news reports, by intercepted communications between al Qaeda operatives—chatter that Senator Saxby Chambliss, ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee characterized on NBC’s “Meet the Press” as “very reminiscent of what we saw pre-9/11.” Though Yemen is obviously a major area of concern right now (the U.S. has not only evacuated the embassy there, but urged all Americans to leave the country), the State Department’s alert is not restricted to any particular region. It even goes so far as to remind travelers of the possibility of attacks on “public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructure,” including subway, rail, and aviation services. (A threat that is underscored by a recent ABC News story about terrorists working to develop an as-yet-undetectable explosive liquid.)
This is only the latest twist in what has been a decidedly rollercoaster couple of years for guidebooks. After Google bought, for $23 million, the stalwart Frommer’s brand of travel guides and then bled the books for content (see the new and improved Google Maps), it sold the brand back to Arthur Frommer himself in April. The 83-year-old recently announced that he would begin publishing guides again in October, introducing a short EasyGuides series aimed at attention-deprived audiences. As reported in the New York Times, he hopes to have roughly 80 titles published by the end of 2014. To call this plan ambitious is an understatement.
Q: Why does it seem that the more I search for an airfare online, the more the price increases?
A: Pure coincidence, say the online travel agencies that we put this question to. These sites simply do not have the ability to adjust airfares according to your searches. It’s likely that you are finding a fare with only limited seats available at that price. and, as the adage goes, you snooze, you lose.
21: The average number of days before departure that Kayak found domestic airfares at their lowest.
Tweet for More: Tweet the hashtag #AmexpubTLAirfare to get the Trip Doctor’s most valuable tip for saving money on international airfares.
A: The salad days for points holders may be ending. In general, demand for rooms is rising, and with it rates, according to Brian Kelly, founder of thepointsguy.com. That means hotels no longer have to be quite so accommodating to loyalists. In the past few months, Kelly notes, both Marriott and Hilton adjusted their loyalty programs so that it takes more points to book many of their most desirable properties. Starwood, meanwhile, upped the amount of money you need to spend for its SPG Cash & Points redemptions. Hotel points haven’t gone off a cliff the way airline miles did about five years ago, but they’re definitely losing value. So keep racking them up. You’re going to need more to get what you want.