Do You Live in a State that Will Require Alternate ID to Fly in 2020?

December 5, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

If you live in one of 24 states, your state-issued driver’s license may not get you on a flight, even for domestic travel, starting on October 10, 2020, and you may need an alternate ID like a passport.

In 2005, Congress passed The REAL ID Act, which was the standardization of the nation’s issuing of state identification to limit terrorism. Although it has been 12 years since its enactment, and the latest extension deadline expired October 10, 2017, nearly half of the United States are still grappling with how to comply with the mandated standards for issuing state IDs.

The only way around this law is if you have a valid passport or other valid alternate ID; then you’re able to fly, regardless of your state’s compliance with REAL ID.

A REAL ID sign at a U.S. airport. If you don't have a REAL ID, you'll need an alternate ID instead, like a passport.This could impact millions of Americans’ access to air travel is because the legislation makes it illegal for those who operate federal facilities to accept non-compliant, state-issued identification to access federal agencies, enter nuclear power plants, or board federally regulated aircraft. This means that the TSA cannot allow those with non-compliant IDs to board federally regulated airplanes because their states have not met the Act’s “minimum standards.”

Those minimum standards require states to incorporate technology into its cards that makes them nearly impossible to counterfeit. States must also prove that they conduct background checks on all personnel who issue driver’s licenses on its behalf. These standards have raised issues in many states about personal privacy. But with the final stage of implementation affecting residents’ ability to travel by air, most states have scrambled to submit applications for extensions.

The final stage of implementation begins January 22, 2018. States that are already in compliance will not be impacted by this date, and those states with an active or “under review” extension won’t be penalized.

If you want to know if you live in one of the 24 states that are not compliant, check out this article in the Washington Post. If you don’t want to hold a federally approved ID, there are 15 other forms of alternate ID that TSA will accept when you travel.

Are you in a state that is already compliant, or are you in one of the 24 affected states? How will you cope if your state doesn’t comply before the deadline? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, orin our Twitter stream.

This is a compliance map of all states as of November 7, 2017. Some states still require an alternate ID.

This is a compliance map of all states as of November 7, 2017. Light green states have asked for an extension, dark green are in compliance.

Photo credit (REAL ID airport sign): Cory Doctorow (Flickr, Creative Commons 2.0)
Photo credit (REAL ID compliance map): Kurykh (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 3.0)

Consider Joining an Independent Airport Lounge, Even for a Day

November 21, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

You may be one of those travelers who lingers by the door to an airline’s lounge, hoping to catch a glimpse of the quiet, serene atmosphere you’ve heard others boast about. If you’re not a frequent-enough traveler to gain entry based on your status, did you know there are independently operated airport lounges that you can join through an annual membership program, or even just for the day?

While airline lounges have been around for 70 years, the independent environments have only recently begun to populate larger US airports. They fulfill the idea that some airlines are too small to operate lounges of their own, and there are always travelers willing to pay for some privacy, food, and beverages.

The cost can be as low as $25 for a day pass or as much as $50, so how do you determine whether the experience is worth the price? Here’s a list of things to consider:

The Gardermoen Airport Lounge in Oslo, Norway

The Gardermoen Airport Lounge in Oslo, Norway

  1. How long am I going to stay in this airport? If the answer is more than an hour and you’d like to eat, drink (free alcohol is served), work, or even nap, the lounge might be a better deal than finding a restaurant for food and making room for your laptop on the table.
  2. Do I need a quiet place to make an important call? If a deal is on the line and you have crucial business to discuss, do you really want to do that in the waiting room while the gate attendant is making announcements? Besides free wifi, these independent lounges offer laptops, sometimes printers, and dedicated workspaces. If you are on your way to visit a client, the use of a private restroom that may have a shower might be just what you need to make the best impression when you arrive.
  3. I mentioned food above, and let me provide you with some casual cost analysis here. The cost of an average cocktail at an airport bar is easily $10, and these lounges offer more than just peanuts and pretzels. The complementary (sometimes hot) food could constitute a light meal, tiding you over until you get home or to your final destination. If there’s a weather delay, you won’t be standing in line with everybody else, juggling your carry-on and other items while trying to get a bite to eat. You’ll be able to actually eat at a table or at a bar, instead of balancing your meal on your knees in that crowded waiting area.

The leading US provider of these independent lounges is The Club, with locations in Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Cincinnati, Las Vegas, Orlando, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, San Jose, and Seattle-Tacoma airports. Day passes are $40, and, as with all airport lounges, you must show a boarding pass for same-day departure to enter.

Most travelers gain access to both carrier-operated and independent lounges through Priority Pass. Its arrangements with over 1,000 establishments make it the leader in the lounge membership business. Priority Pass offers three levels of membership: standard: $99/year with unlimited visits at $27 each; standard plus: $249/year with 10 free visits plus additional visits at $27 each; and prestige: $399/year for unlimited visits. Priority Pass has locations available at 21 US airports.

They say membership has its privileges, and that’s certainly true if you hold specific credit cards. With an American Express Platinum, Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Ritz-Carlton, and MasterCard Black, your Priority Pass membership is included.

To lounge or not to lounge? That may still be your question. But with this information,  hopefully you may have your answer.

Are you a lounge member? Do you partake, or are you thinking about it? Share your stories in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: TravelingOtter (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 2.0)

Stash Your Bags With this London-based Startup, CityStasher

November 7, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

They say necessity is the mother of invention. But little did Matt Majewski know that his need to store his suitcases at a friend’s house while taking a long weekend to attend a friend’s bachelor party would become the seed for an up-and-coming niche business, CityStasher.

Majewski’s friend (and fellow founder) Anthony Collias told him he’d happily store his bags for the weekend, but he’d have to charge him. That tongue-in-cheek quip was a moment of realization: perhaps other travelers were in need of short-term storage for their bags as well, and CityStasher was born.

If it’s your last day in England and you want to tour the sites of London before you catch your flight but after you’ve checked out of your hotel or Airbnb, you certainly don’t want to lug your luggage from the Tube to the Tower of London to the London Eye all day. CityStasher allows travelers to leave their luggage in a locked room at one of its 60 StashPoints around the city.

CityStasher home page screenshot

CityStasher’s StashPoints, located in independent businesses and other establishments that boast long hours of operation, are vetted to meet the following criteria: they have close-captioned TV surveillance, a locked room for the bags, and have long hours of operation for easy drop-off and pick-up. Each bag is insured for 750 pounds, close to $1,000 USD. The cost to stash your bag? 4 pounds for the first 3 hours, 6 pounds for 3 to 24 hours, and an additional 5 pounds for every 24 hours after that.

Proprietors have been incentivized to become storage sites by the prospect of redeploy an existing asset into a profit sharing investment. The StashPoint operators do have the right to search the luggage in the presence of its owner before attaching the security tag to the bag and agreeing to store it.

According to Jacob Wedderburn-Day, the company’s third founder, CityStasher hasn’t had any incidents with the contents of any of the nearly 25,000 bags it has stored since it began operating in 2015.

CityStasher operates in 18 cities across the United Kingdom, and in Amsterdam, after being sought out by a business there. The company is seeking investors to bring CityStasher to popular weekend destination cities across Europe.

Would you pay to store your baggage for a few hours before a flight? Or would you just lug it around to save money? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, orin our Twitter stream.

5 Ways to Reduce Costs Inside an Airport

October 24, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Flying can be an expensive endeavor. You spend hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars to get to your destination. But then you’re nickel-and-dimed on everything else once you get to the airport. Of course, everything is more expensive, so it’s more like you’re five-and-tenned.

But there are some ways you can avoid these high-priced incidentals once you get to the airport. We’ve brainstormed five ways to reduce your costs.

Washington Dulles Airport at dusk, photo by Joe Ravi

Washington Dulles Airport at dusk

Take an Uber or Lyft to the airport, or have a friend take you to save on parking costs, especially if you’re going to be gone for more than a week. Onsite parking at O’Hare International Airport’s long-term economy lot can run you $17/day—$40/day if you park in the main garage. While an Uber or Lyft ride might cost you somewhere in that range, that one-time cost will not grow exponentially while you’re on your trip. Better yet, ask (or bribe) a friend or family member to take you and pick you up. This option will be far cheaper than any other option, and your car will still be safe at home.
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Five Ways to Watch TV & Movies while Traveling

October 19, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Binge watching is sometimesone of the only things that makes a long-haul flight, road trip, or long-distance traveling tolerable. If you want to catch up on your favorite TV series or stream a movie you didn’t see in the theater, you don’t have to be tech-savvy to access media content on the road. You just need to plan ahead.

1. Download content from Hulu or Netflix

You can watch Hulu Plus or Netflix on different electronic devices while traveling.While Hulu and Netflix are great for streaming your favorite shows and movies, they’ve both recently begun allowing people to download content to be watched later. Before you start traveling, while you’re still on wifi, download as many episodes or films as your device will hold (don’t forget to save room for photos on your phone!)

2. Buy it on iTunes

If you don’t have Netflix or Hulu, or the content you want isn’t available for download, see if you can find it on iTunes and buy or rent it there. If you buy it, you have the added bonus of always owning that content, so you can watch it over and over to your heart’s desire. But you can only watch the Netflix/Hulu content for a limited time. If it’s ever removed from the streaming services, your copy will be lost as well.
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Which is Better for Air Travel, Aisle or Window? Your Choice Says a Lot About You

October 5, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The debate has raged since the dawn of air travel: Which is better, the window seat or the aisle seat?

A few years ago, Expedia polled their readers to find the majority preference. The results may surprise you.

Fifty-five percent of those surveyed said they prefer the window seat, while only 45 percent say they always choose the aisle seat. Almost no one wanted the middle seat. (No great surprise there.)

According to University of Washington psychology professor Jonathan Bricker, these choices say things about each traveler. Those who choose the aisle value their freedom, he said. They can get up and go to the bathroom without asking anyone. They’re also all business. This means they’re probably going to be up working or reading a book. They also tend to be claustrophobic. Proponents of this seat choice also cite access to overhead bins, the ability to get up and walk around on long-haul flights, increased legroom, and priority exiting when deplaning.
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The Benefits of Bleisure Travel for Business Travelers

October 3, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.”

That proverb has a lesser-known second phrase which dates back to 1825: “All play and no work makes Jack a mere toy.”

With so many people spending significant amounts of time away from home on business, family relationships can suffer. What if there was a way to bring the family along on a trip, build in some leisure time, and come back from the trip not only accomplishing your purpose but getting away as well? You can do that, and it’s called bleisure travel, a portmanteau of business + leisure. And it’s a great way to make business travel a little more enjoyable for you and your family.

Here are several ways to plan bleisure travel.

Bleisure travel can happen anywhere, but it's especially fun if you're near Orlando. This is the Geosphere at EPCOT.

Bleisure travel can happen anywhere, but it’s especially fun if you’re near Orlando. This is the Geosphere at EPCOT.

If you’re going to a popular tourist area, say Orlando, for business, the company is paying for your airfare and your hotel. Why not take your family with you? If you do that, you’re already down there, and that’s one less airline ticket you’ll buy personally. Plus, the room is already paid for, regardless of who’s in it. (If the hotel charges more for more guests, you can personally pay the difference.)
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Travel Hacks and Myths That Don’t Actually Work

September 5, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

The number of travel hacks that have been touted across the Internet as “the way” to get the “best” deal have many chasing the potential for something that isn’t out there.

For example, none of these well-publicized travel hacks for getting a cheaper flight — clear your cache to avoid high airfares, don’t use a Mac, buy 42 days in advance, book after midnight on a Tuesday — actually work.

If you want to get a deal on an airfare, don’t book too early or too late. Booking one to four months out should result in a decent price. And the differences in between prices are not so vast anymore either. You might save $40 or $50 on a discount site, but you may be penalized by not being allowed to select your seats or being more likely to get bumped if a flight is overbooked.

Lobby of the Novotel Nathan Road Kowloon Hong Kong hotel - Travel hacks like tipping the front desk staff don't always work. And may be impolite in some cultures.

Lobby of the Novotel Nathan Road Kowloon Hong Kong hotel – Travel hacks like tipping the front desk staff don’t always work, and may be impolite in some cultures.

As for booking the best hotel rate, don’t believe the hack about calling the property directly unless you’re negotiating a group rate for a special event. That’s another situation entirely. If you’re thinking that you’ll be able to use your amazing negotiating skills if you can just speak with a human being, think again. Calling a property directly will most likely end up in a reroute to a reservation center. Just go to their website and make sure to enter your loyalty number. If you don’t have one, join their loyalty club and then stick with them for future travel. That will always get the best rates.

Finally, if you don’t join a loyalty club and every dollar counts, check a meta-search website instead, such as Google or Kayak.com, Booking.com, or Expedia. Cross-check your findings with those of the hotel’s website, though, so that you don’t miss a deal there.

“Tipping” the front desk personnel when checking is another travel hack that usually doesn’t work. Most often, the employee keeps the money, not understanding that you were attempting to hack the system and get an upgrade. This does have a better chance of working at fancy hotels in big cities, but even then, it doesn’t always help.

Rental cars used to be able to be procured for deeply discounted rates by making a reservation via travel sites like Travelocity, Hotwire, Orbitz, or Priceline. Not so anymore. The best deals today are through Costco, AAA, or the rental companies themselves, such as Hertz, Enterprise, National, Avis, and Budget.

If you need an inexpensive rental car, start with the rental companies’ websites, but check the other sites as well. The rental car companies truly have figured out that it’s better to offer great deals directly to their customers than to make them hunt them down on competitor’s sites.

Everyone wants to figure out a way to hack the system and travel cheaper or faster. While it may seem innocuous at the time, many potential hacks may involve lying, bribing, or cheating, and those behaviors only end up creating consequences for the traveling public—often resulting in higher fares and tighter restrictions. So be careful in the hacks that you use.

Your best bet is to join loyalty clubs at your favorite hotel, airline, and car rental agency and stick with them as much as possible. Also, get a credit card that rewards you loyalty points. Your membership in those clubs can get you some extra perks.

What are some travel hacks have you found that don’t actually work? Any painful lessons you learned in your business travel? Share your experiences with us in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Novotel Nathan Road Kowloon Hong Kong (Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons 2.0)

Packing Food for Air Travel

August 29, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Are you trying to stay on track with that new diet you’re on, but you have a business trip, and the thought of running the food court gauntlet without getting tripped up by some tempting food has you considering quitting? Do you have a dietary restriction that makes finding allergen-free food in the airport next to impossible?

Have you considered packing some snacks or meals to eat while you fly? You can take food through the TSA security checkpoints, you just have to know what food falls under its liquid restrictions — the 3-1-1 rule —and pack accordingly.

Although water bottles or other beverages must not exceed 3.4 ounces, don’t automatically assume you can’t bring items such as packets of nut butters or salad dressing. Just be sure the amount you’re bringing through security is less than 3.4 ounces/100ml. The liquid restrictions also apply to ice and gel packs as well, so be sure to time your arrival at the airport so those frozen food products are still frozen solid.
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How Much Should You Tip at Hotels?

August 22, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

In this country, tipping is a combination of good manners and best practices. Whether you agree with it or not almost doesn’t matter, because this is how the travel and service industries operate. You tip at restaurants, you tip your cab driver, you tip at hotels — it’s a part of travel etiquette.

But there are a lot of questions about who you should actually tip at hotels, so we’ve found some different resources on the subject and here’s what you should do if you want to become a champion of etiquette. Here’s just a short list of the most visible staff you need to consider tipping:

The lobby of the Bellagio Hotel. Staying at a place like expects that you tip at hotels.

The Bellagio Hotel – Definitely a tipping environment.

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