TSA May Require Additional Screening for Additional Items at Airport

July 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

As if we weren’t already in the throes of the busiest season for traveling, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has announced that it might require more items to be removed from your carry-on luggage during screening. For the past 18 months, TSA has been testing how to make it easier for its officers to consistently view what’s in the bags they screen daily.

According to Wall Street Journal “Middle Seat” columnist Scott McCartney, the X-ray machine color codes the items inside the bag based on the density, and the more tightly packed the bag is, the harder it is for all its contents to be identified. That makes it difficult for screeners to identify the items within the bag.
TSA Bag Check
TSA officials have been considering having all electronics, food, and paper added to the list of items that must come out of every carry-on during screening. Why food? Certain items, such as chocolate, are dense and mimic the shape of explosives, often creating the necessity of a second look, just to be sure. Paper, including books and notepads, obscures other things, forcing the screener to tag a bag for a manual check that slows the line.

If you haven’t heard us sing its praises before, all these measures give us another reason to urge frequent travelers to invest in TSA’s Precheck. According to the TSA, the removal of these additional items would only apply in regular screening lines.

What should you do if you can’t afford Precheck and want to make sure your bag doesn’t get tagged for a manual search? Think through your packing strategy and be organized.

Store items that you already know need to be removed in the easy-to-access exterior pockets of your luggage. Consider electing to pull out that special chocolate bar you purchased at a gourmet shop as a souvenir so that it can be screened in plain sight in a separate bin with your jacket or shoes. Have a specific place you always store that favorite book or notepad you plan to use to help you pass the time onboard.

While these additional items haven’t been added to the official list, thoughtful packing before you arrive at the airport will help you develop a few habits that could save you some time and avoid unwanted hassle if the list is expanded.

How will these new rules, if they go through, affect you? Are you an electronics-only traveler, or do you carry a lot of paper and food as well? Let us hear from you in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Bradley Gordon (Flickr, Creative Commons)

Travel Top Five: Traveling in Comfort

February 27, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Over the years, we’ve talked about traveling light, being efficient, and not taking things you can live without. But that doesn’t mean living a spartan, uncomfortable existence, where you can’t wait for your trip to be over. We still want you to be comfortable.

Everyone has personal standards for comfort. For some, it’s their pillow from home, or wearing their favorite jeans. Often, business travelers have certain standards and efficiencies they should maintain, so curling up on the plane in sweatpants with a pillow is probably not a good idea.

Here are five ways you can be more comfortable when you travel, without looking too out of place or sacrificing packing space and efficiency.

Let’s start with shoes. You’ll be on your feet — through security, through the terminal, through the parking lot, and through the lobby to your client — a good bit of the day. The best way to stay comfortable is to invest in comfort that will carry you, literally, through your trip: get a pair of walking shoes. There are plenty of stylish options that look just as professional, and your feet will thank you.
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Business Travelers, Beware of Cyber hackers on Planes

February 22, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

It seems we can find ways to connect with the world, even from 30,000 feet. While flying used to be a no-wifi zone, connectivity is now available on 78 percent of US flights, according to an article on TravelWeekly.com.

This may be good for business travelers, but it can be bad for security while in-flight. According to Richard Blech, CEO of Secure Channels, a cyber defense firm, “The easiest way to look at this is that [wifi] is a public network, and public networks, in general, are not secure…If there is someone on the aircraft that wants to get into the network, they are going to get into the network.”

A man sitting on an airplane wearing a knit tube over his head and his laptop computer. His hands fit into little openings near the laptop.

No, this won’t help.

According to several security experts, something most travelers don’t consider when using onboard wifi is their proximity to others. “You’ve got three to five hours locked in, and everyone’s stationary,” Blech said. “That’s a world of time for a hacker.”

With this in mind, should you avoid logging on while flying? No, but common sense should prevail. Here are some tips for being mindful of a possible cyber threat while en route:
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How to Survive and Pass the Time On Surprisingly Long Flight Delays

January 20, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

It can be the ripple effect of a storm or a part that needs to be replaced that they’re waiting to arrive on an incoming flight or some other situation that is completely out of your control. Whatever the reason, when you learn your flight is about to be delayed for many hours, that is not the time to think about how you’re going to weather the situation. You should plan ahead.

Here are a few tips for surviving those dreaded crazy long flight delays.

Oslo Airport Lounge - Gardermoen Airport

The Oslo Lounge at Gardermoen Airport. You could spend a few hours in here.

Be prepared before you leave home. I don’t mean you have to try to figure out how to fit a sleeping bag in your carry on, but if you plan to have a few items with you, you’ll be in better shape than most to ride out the wait.

For women, think about incorporating a blanket scarf into your wardrobe choices so that it’s already in your luggage and can serve as a true blanket if you have to bed down on the floor or create a makeshift bed at the gate. Some fuzzy socks will keep your feet warm and a toothbrush and toothpaste will help you feel mostly human and not offensive to others, should you have to spend the night in the terminal.
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What to do If Your Flight is Canceled

January 9, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

It’s every weary traveler’s nightmare scenario: the flight you’re supposed to be on is canceled. What you do next will determine whether your day is totally ruined or ultimately redeemed. Not every situation can be remedied, but knowing a few action steps can make all the difference in getting you to your destination.

Get on the phone.

The faster you get on the phone with the airline to rebook your flight, the better your chances are of making it to your final destination. It’ll do you little good to stand in the long line with everyone else who’s waiting to speak with the ticket agent at the gate. Tip: If you feel like talking to a gate agent, go to another gate of the same airline where a flight recently left. They’re all plugged into the same system, and can do just as much for you as your original gate’s agent.

If your flight is canceled, there are a few options for you, if you act fast.

Adjust your itinerary.

Be sure to have some alternatives in mind, because the agents don’t always know the destination region where you’re flying. For example, you may not be able to get into Chicago due to weather, but if Chicago is your final destination, you could reroute through Milwaukee or even Indianapolis and be within driving distance of the Windy City. Thinking through your options and presenting them to whomever you’re working with to rebook your flight will let the agent know you’re flexible.
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Prepare Your Phone for Your Next International Trip

January 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Preparing for an international trip with your mobile phone requires research and planning. Get off the plane and just start using it, and you’ll be hit with a variety of fees and roaming charges, easily racking up several hundred dollars in a single week.

Whether you need the ability to call or just the ability to access data and text, the following tips will help you utilize your device to its fullest while keeping overall costs down.

Know your phone and your plan

All phones use either GSM (Global System for Mobiles) or CDMA (Code Division Multiple Access) as their radio systems to communicate with cell towers. GSM phones are unlocked and can be used with any carrier, while CDMA phones are locked to a specific carrier.

Business travelers have a few hacks they could use to help save money on their next international trip.

Read through your plan to make sure you know what the charges will be for international use, or if you’ll even be able to use your phone while abroad. If you have a GSM phone, you can switch out your SIM card with one in the country you’re visiting (more on that later). Otherwise, you may be able to purchase a temporary plan through your carrier.

If you have a CDMA phone, you may want to buy a pay-as-you-go phone once you arrive in your destination country.
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Workaholic Americans Impacting Economy by not Vacationing

December 14, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Americans wasted 658 million vacation days in 2015.

That’s nearly 2.2 vacation days for every person in the United States. According to Project Time Off, this is the highest number of vacation days they have ever seen.

A nice beach getaway makes a great vacation.

A nice beach getaway makes a great vacation.

More than half of American workers (55%) left vacation time unused in 2015. This adds up to 658 million unused vacation days. It is the highest number Project: Time Off has ever reported, far exceeding the previous 429 million count.

That’s unacceptable. Our bosses may love our commitment to the job, but it’s not good for us, and it’s not good for our country.

We understand the importance of vacations and taking breaks and what it does for our bodies and minds. But did you realize that by taking time off, you could be boosting the economy?

If every American used their vacation days, a whopping $160 billion would be added to the national economy, and another $21 billion generated in taxes. Plus, 1.6 million jobs would be created.
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What To Do when Your Luggage is Lost

November 30, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

It’s the last thing you want to have happen when you’re traveling: your bag doesn’t show up at the baggage carousel. It has an immediate impact on your psyche, not to mention your itinerary.

But if the airline loses or mishandles your bag, there are a few steps you can and should take before you ever leave the airport, and a couple steps to take before you ever even get there.

If your luggage is lost at the baggage claim, head immediately to the lost luggage office. But be nice to the staff!

The Palermo (Italy) Airport baggage claim.

We want to say this upfront: above all, don’t vent your frustration on the person at the lost luggage counter

Next, before you ever get to the airport, pack your essentials in your carry-on: your medication, laptop, papers for your presentation, and anything else you can’t afford to be without. I once read a story that involved a woman whose lost bag included her laptop with a sales presentation she was to give the next day. She got her bag back in time, but we couldn’t help wonder, why would you ever relinquish control of the most important part of your trip?
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Geneva Airport Begins Its Luggage Robot Bag Drop Trial

November 16, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Even with his vivid imagination, Leonardo Da Vinci, recognized for inventing the world’s first robot, could never have envisioned this application for his creation. Or that it would be used in coordination with another of his inventions, the flying machine.

Yet here we are, as Geneva Airport has been trying the world’s first fully autonomous, self-propelling baggage robot to assist travelers with their luggage. Working in collaboration with Swiss telecommunications company SITA and BlueBotics, a robotics company specializing in Autonomous Navigation Technology (ANT), the company has named their robot “Leo,” after the famed Italian inventor and artist.

Leo the luggage robot at the Geneva Airport in Switzerland

Leo the luggage robot at the Geneva Airport in Switzerland

Leo can check in luggage, print baggage tags, and transport the luggage to its designated baggage handling area using information gathered by scanning passengers’ boarding passes. After the bags are loaded into the robot’s compartment, Leo displays the boarding gate and departure time to the travelers. No one other than a baggage handler can reopen the compartment once it departs for its designated destination.

Massimo Gentile, head of IT at the airport, sees great potential for use of robots in the future. He told FutureTravelExperience.com, “The use of a robot such as Leo limits the number of bags in the airport terminal, helping us accommodate a growing number of passengers without compromising the airport experience inside the terminal. Leo also proves the case for increased use of robotics to make passengers’ journey a little more comfortable.”

Dave Bakker, president of the European division of SITA, agreed. “Leo demonstrates that robotics hold the key to more effective, secure and smarter baggage handling and is a major step towards further automating bag handling in airports. Leo also provides some insight into the potential use of robots across the passenger journey in future,” he told FutureTravelExperience.com

While some kinks remain to be worked out, such as scalability of the entire system, the capacity, both in size and weight that the robot can carry, and how it navigates in snowy conditions, this trial at Geneva’s airport makes it clear that ANT robotic assistance is here to stay.

What do you think? Would you trust a luggage-carrying robot with your bag? Or would you prefer to check your bag yourself? Share your thoughts in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: SITA (Used with permission)

Making the Case for Travel Insurance

November 4, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Most people think travel insurance is a way to recoup the cost of an airline ticket in the event of a personal emergency or health situation that makes it impossible for them to complete their travels.

But travel insurance is more than just personal insurance. Consider the impact this year’s terrorist attacks in Brussels and Paris, to mention just a few, have had on the travel industry and travelers’ plans.

While travel insurance rates haven’t spiked, or changed at all, since these events, the commodity with the terrorism clause has been standard since September 11, 2001. In fact, according to an article in The New York Times, companies like squaremouth.com have a special section of their travel insurance site dedicated to policies that prospective travelers can search to find terrorism coverage.

Travel insurance vending machines in Japan

Travel insurance vending machines in Japan

Travelers should understand that insurance with this clause doesn’t provide blanket coverage. In fact, it’s very narrow. For example, it will not cover a trip already in progress, but might allow you to get a refund if an act of terrorism has occurred within 30 days of your scheduled departure. The policy may also exclude coverage in the event of a terrorist attack if you choose to travel to an area known for terrorist activity or where an attack has already happened.

According to Christina Tunnah, regional manager for the travel insurance company World Nomads, two factors determine whether or not you’ll be able to submit a claim: 1) When you purchased the insurance, and 2) How your plans were impacted by the terrorism. In some instances, for a claim to be paid, the event may have to be officially declared a terrorist attack. She always advises travelers to call.

“Traditionally, insurance doesn’t cover fear,” Tunnah told the New York Times. “Yet there are some practicalities that might cause a travel insurance company to make an exception. It’s always very case by case.”

While the odds of being impacted by an act of terrorism while traveling are exceedingly slim, knowing your options will help you make an informed, objective decision.

Do you usually purchase travel insurance? Are you considering it more now than before? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Mark Yang (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 2.0)

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