Procrastinators, beware! The State Department wants you to check your passport expiration and submit it now to avoid the expected flood of renewals of the 10-year document. They’re anticipating a surge in demand because 2006 was the first year the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative went into effect, requiring Americans flying to and from Mexico, Canada, and the Caribbean to produce a passport for re-entry into the country.
There has also been an increase in renewal activity due to the implementation of the Real ID Act, which creates a more stringent set of standards for travelers using driver’s licenses and other identity cards to board a plane.
To clarify, the Department of Homeland Security has set a January 22, 2018 deadline for states to comply with the changes instituted by the Real ID Act. A passport will serve as a viable alternative to either forms of identification for those traveling after the deadline from non-compliant states.
Airline travel is a necessity for me, but as a taller-than-average guy, I think more about the two inches of extra space some airlines offer, than most people do. Two inches doesn’t seem like much, until your knees are jammed into the seatback in front of you, and you’re wedged in for three to four hours.
According to a survey conducted by Conde Nast Traveler (and reported on Huffington Post), the three airlines that provide the most legroom on US domestic flights include Jet Blue, with 33 inches; Virgin America, with 32 inches; and Southwest, with 32 inches. The bottom two are no surprise: Frontier and Spirit, each with 28 inches (although Spirit offers no recline). Twenty-eight inches is just a non-starter for me.
It’s somewhat surprising to me that the “big three” U.S. carriers — Delta, American, and United — all average 31 inches. It goes to show that utilizing a smaller airline might actually prove to be a better choice, not just for a lower price, but because there can be an extra two inches of legroom.
It seems everyone has a tip for how to make the most of the space you have in your suitcase. No one knows better, though, than flight attendants. Many of them use the Flight Crew Series Rollaboard from Travelpro.
Here are a few of their expert packing tips, as shared with Condé Nast Traveler magazine.
Heavy items such as toiletries and shoes take up a lot of space, but where you put them in your Rollaboard will determine your ease of maneuvering the bag through the airport. If you place your toiletries and shoes in the bottom of the case nearest the wheel base, you’ll be surprised at the difference it makes. By doing this it keeps the center of gravity low and it avoids heavier items falling into your clothing when the bag is being pulled upright. Flip flops and some sandals are by far the most versatile shoe with the smallest packing “footprint.” They go with many casual outfits and can serve as slippers in the hotel.
Don’t use a garment bag. Generally, they don’t fit in the overhead bins well, and closet space on planes is reserved for use by first class passengers first. If you insist, most likely it will be checked and then you’ll have wrinkled clothes when you arrive.
It’s not just in your head. The airplane food we consume while in flight does taste different than those same foods on the ground. But before you go blaming the companies that produce those meals — because this goes for the food you brought onto the plane with you as well — let me share the science those chefs are trying to combat in order to create a palatable dining experience at 30,000 feet.
We read a recent article in Travel + Leisure magazine that said there are a number of factors that contribute to our airline food tasting funny or different.
Cabin climate contributes greatly to the ability to taste. The air inside a plane is actually drier than some deserts — only 12 percent in some cases. According to the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics, the atmosphere in the cabin can decrease the taste of sweet and salty foods by as much as 30 percent. That’s why airlines serve salty snacks — pretzels, peanuts, and those famous cookies — in order to give you the best opportunity to taste something flavorful.
A recent worldwide travel alert issued by the State Department has recently expired, but that doesn’t mean you should stop paying attention to these as you prepare to travel. On the other hand, you need to read the alert carefully before you decide to cancel a trip that you have planned for months.
USA Today recently discussed five different myths about travel warnings from the U.S. State Department, and we picked a few we thought were worth pointing out.
Myth #1: “Travel warnings and alerts are the same thing.” They’re not. Travel warnings are just that, a warning. The State Department declares some countries and places that US citizens ought to think twice about traveling to because of the chronic state of affairs there, like Iraq or Afghanistan. Travel alerts are time specific and are generally issued when there are events happening in a specific country that US travelers should be advised of when planning their travel.
With the airlines making record profits — a projected $36 million that’s double the number from 2014 — those who work for and observe the airline industry are hoping to see a trend to decrease the “less” mentality that has typified economy class.
International Air Transport Association Director General and CEO Tony Tyler sees this as a time when “passengers are benefiting from greater value than ever — with competitive airfares and product investments,” according to a Future Travel Experience article.
But Devin Liddell, principal brand strategist for Teague design group, thinks there’s really a “race to the bottom” occurring. “It’s all about what can we take away,” he says. He thinks customers are going to reach a point where they say, “Enough! This is becoming ridiculous.”
In order for travel to be efficient and enjoyable, organization of your stuff is key. This is where travel hacks can help. We’ve read a lot of articles, heard from a lot of travelers, and even spoke with our fellow road warriors. And, of course, we found a great article on Huffington Post about the topic of travel hacks.
Here are a few of our favorites.
- All those lotions, shampoos, conditioners, sunscreen, makeup foundation, and eye creams you use take up a lot of space. Seal off a drinking straw with a heat sealer, fill it with your favorite lotions and creams, and seal off the other end. Label them with tape, and you’ve got some single servings of your different products. It saves space and you won’t run afoul of TSA rules.
- If you’re like me, you’re tired of wrestling with all those different charging cables and earbuds you carry around. Rather than unpacking and unraveling a tangled mess every time you need a cable, put them in an eyeglass case you’re not using. The hard shell ones that spring shut work best.
It seems everybody is busy these days. We never seem to have enough time to do things at a leisurely pace, and that includes flying. Even if we have some extra time, we feel like we have to rush through the airport. But you can avoid that rushed feeling if you use some of these techniques — which we read on Yahoo — to navigate your way through the airport.
1. Plan ahead. This may sound like common sense, but time adds up when you’re en route to the airport. If you don’t plan for it, you run the danger of missing your flight. Factor in traffic, security checkpoint wait time, and how long it takes to ride the off-site airport parking shuttle to the terminal into the amount of time you allot yourself to get to your gate. It adds up fast!
It’s a traveler’s worst nightmare: the lost bag. If it hasn’t happened to you, consider yourself lucky. In many cases, the bag is not really “lost”, it is misplaced. In other words, you are at your destination, but your bag is somewhere else. The problem is you don’t know where your luggage is. While airlines are doing much better at baggage handling, the system isn’t perfect. So, what can you do?
First, be proactive. I don’t know about you, but I never gave those baggage claim stickers much thought until I experienced my first lost bag. Without that tracking number, you have no proof that your bag was checked, or that it belongs to you.
That leaves the airline with your name, which reminds me: make sure there’s identification on your bag at all times. At a bare minimum, use the complimentary tags the airlines offers at check-in, or better yet, a business card in the ID slot that’s built into the luggage. With Travelpro luggage, the ID information will be hidden under a flap on the outside of the bag, so it is not visible for all to see.
The next time you land in London, how would you like to ditch your bags at the airport to get in a little extra sight-seeing and have them waiting for you at your hotel? Or, leave your bags behind at the hotel and have them meet you at the airport? Or maybe you have some early or last-minute meetings, and you don’t feel like wrestling your bags for the next six hours.
Heathrow Airport and Portr have combined forces to allow passengers same-day, baggage-free travel to or from the airport to any London address. They call it AirPortr, and although it’s currently the only service they offer, the company may expand beyond airport delivery services.
Chris Walsh, director and head of customer experience at Portr, explains. “Our vision is to fundamentally change how people travel, putting them back in control of their own agenda rather than burdensome baggage dictating their itinerary. AirPortr is all about increasing the efficiency of your time; you know that your bags are being securely delivered, which leaves you to make the most of your first or last day in London. We like to call it ‘Luggage Freedom.'”