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What Does the TSA Do With Confiscated Items?

confiscated items

Firearms and hazardous materials are turned over to local law enforcement officials. For safety reasons, liquids that can’t go through security—even in sealed containers—must be thrown out. For other items, the TSA either sends them to a contractor for disposal or donates them to a local nonprofit. Some of these charities will, in turn, resell items and use the proceeds to support their own programs. The TSA makes clear that none of this resale money goes into its own coffers.

Related Links:
Hotels’ Strangest Forgotten Items
Best Airport Security Checkpoints
Most Annoying Airport Security Checkpoints

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


Photo by iStockphoto

The Final Say: How Clean Is Your Airplane Seat?

airplane seat

It’s up to domestic airlines to develop their own cleaning protocols. All the carriers we spoke with require either flight attendants or certified maintenance crews to do some form of cleaning between flights—even if it’s just a cursory removal of garbage and refreshing of the lavatories. The more thorough scrub, when crews wipe down seats and tray tables with disinfectants, happens when a plane overnights at an airport. Carriers schedule “deep cleans” every month or so to launder seat covers and shampoo the carpets. Still feel squeamish about your seat? That’s what disinfectant wipes are for.

Related Links:
Air Travel Tips
Why Airplanes Are Safe
Scenic Views from Airplane Windows

Melanie Lieberman is the Editorial Projects Assistant and a member of the Trip Doctor News Team. You can follow her on twitter at @LittleWordBites.


What to Bring to the Beach

201406-hd-what-to-bring-to-the-beach-hamptonsjpg

I spend summer weekends in East Hampton and I always bring more than I need. Any tips? —Geena Oritzia, New York, N.Y.

Nailing down a foolproof packing strategy is key. For quick trips, stick to a few pieces that are interchangeable. These staples prove less is more.

No sense in packing two bags; pick one that doubles as a beach tote. Chanel; price upon request.

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Food as a Jet Lag Cure

food as a jet lag cure

Q: Are there any foods that will help me fight jet lag? —George Frank, Brooklyn, N.Y.

A: Even more than foreign-transaction fees and data-roaming charges, jet lag is the bane of international travelers. Resetting your internal clock to a new time zone can be a days-long process. Fortunately, there are ways to ease yourself onto a new schedule—and what you eat and drink can play a key role.

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How Long is Too Long to Linger at a Table?

lingering in a restaurant

Most good restaurants in the United States expect to turn over a table two to three times each night—that means they anticipate a party of two will stay for about an hour and 45 minutes (four-tops are usually allotted two hours). So once you’ve paid your bill, try not to spend the next hour nursing your final sip of wine. Internationally, diners enjoy a more leisurely pace. In Italy, for instance, experts say it’s virtually impossible to overstay your welcome. In countries from Australia and China to Argentina, meals typically run a full two to three hours. If you don’t know the protocol, look to the waitstaff for cues. They’ll let you know when your time’s up.

Related Links:
Travel Etiquette Do’s and Don’ts
Worldwide Guide to Restaurant Tipping
Craziest Travel Confessions

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


Photo by iStockphoto

Can I Pack Duty-Free Alcohol in my Carry-On?

duty-free alcohol

As a general rule, yes, as long as you keep your items in the sealed plastic bag from Duty Free. Some countries (South Africa and Argentina included) will confiscate liquids over 3.4 ounces in secondary, at-gate security checks; duty-free items, however, should be exempt. Until recently, if you had a connecting flight in the European Union or the U.S., you would have to either stow your purchases in your checked bag as you switched planes or toss them. But the introduction of new liquid scanners in the EU and the relaxing of such rules in the States (thank you, TSA) mean that you can now carry these items on board.

Related Links:
Travel Etiquette Do’s and Don’ts
Trip Doctor: How to Bring Back Food Souvenirs
Craziest Travel Confessions

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


Photo by iStockphoto

How to Find the Best Fares on European Flights

Canary Islands

Booking a great fare to Europe has become increasingly difficult. Here’s how to bring down the cost of your next transatlantic flight.

First there is the question of timing. According to Kayak, the most-affordable airfares to Europe last year were booked eight to 10 weeks before departure—so you should start researching tickets at least three months out. You’ll find even better prices if your travel dates are flexible. As a general rule, European fares rise for travel beginning in the second week of May and don’t fall again until September. Expedia reports that the least expensive months to fly to Europe are February, March, and November. If you can, look for tickets that depart for Europe on either a Tuesday or Wednesday and return on a Tuesday; they tend to be lower, according to Kayak’s research. (See “Fare Finders,” below, for our favorite sites for finding European airfares.)

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Guide to Train Travel in Europe

Europe rail

The fast track on Europe’s new train routes and what to know before you go.

The Fast Track

On Europe’s newest routes, speeds are higher and higher (and prices lower).

Paris to Barcelona: The final SNCF segment between Barcelona and the French border opened in December, cutting the 12-hour travel time between the French and Catalan capitals in half.

Marseilles to Paris: Ouigo, the Continent’s first budget high-speed service, costs a quarter of the average fare. The catch? Less-convenient stations, no catering, and online-only booking.

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Europe Car Rental 101

Europe car rental

What to know before you hit the road in Europe.

Choose an agency. Large companies, such as Hertz and Enterprise or Europe-based Sixt, are best equipped to handle special requests (automatic transmission; GPS devices; children’s car seats). Local agencies often have lower prices but may not offer 24-hour service if something goes wrong.

Book in advance. When reserving online, check hours of operation for rental locations. Airports are usually open every day, but city-center sites may have limited hours, often closing for a few hours at midday and all day Sunday.

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How to Save Money on Your European Vacation

cheap European vacation

A perennial favorite for American travelers, Europe can also be one of the most expensive places to travel. First and foremost, you need to find a good transatlantic ticket, which can be challenging, since taxes, fees, and carrier charges can easily tack an additional $600 onto the average fare. In “How to Find the Best Fares on European Flights,” I outline strategies for landing the best flights. Here are some other ways to find value in Europe.

Pick the right destination.

Your dollar goes further depending on where you are—and what currency you’re using. The best values usually lie outside the euro zone. According to Hotels.com’s annual Hotel Price Index, Warsaw had the most-affordable luxury hotels in Europe in 2013, with an average room rate of just $124 a night. Budapest, Istanbul, and Prague also all had top rooms for less than $250 a night. (By contrast, Paris’s luxury rooms went for $504, on average, and London’s for $430.) This squares with the Economist’s Big Mac Index, which offers a quick (and playful) look at the relative cost of countries by charting the price of the ubiquitous McDonald’s burger around the world. According to this metric, the Polish zloty is undervalued by a full 35 percent against the U.S. dollar; the Czech koruna (undervalued by 25 percent), Turkish lira (19 percent), and Hungarian forint (17 percent) also offer bargains for Americans.

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