Bring This, Not That: Prepared Dishes

November 6, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Food and the holidays are like salt and pepper. They go together naturally.

If your family expects you to make a blueberry pie every Thanksgiving, you probably want to oblige. But should you bake it at home and take it with you, or make it once you get there? It’s an easy question if you live in the same city, but what if you have to travel a long distance for the holidays?

Cranberry sauce & Gravy

Cranberry sauce & Gravy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’re traveling by car, you can make everything ahead of time and put it into a carrying case or cooler. But if you’re flying, you may not want to cart a pie through airport security. Even though TSA’s website says “we’ve seen just about everything,” they also warn that a carry-on pie may be subject to additional screening.

In other words, make the food when you get there.

The TSA has a list of items you can’t carry onto the plane, including cranberry sauce, gravy, and soup. You could carry them on as long as they measured under 3.4 ounces, but that won’t put much food on the table.

You could always check-in the food items in question, but the containers could easily break during the baggage handling process of your flight. Cans or bottles could explode from the pressure, or a glass bottle could break from rough handling from a baggage handler, or when it lands onto the baggage claim carousel from the chute.

If you cook with special ingredients or have food allergies or dietary concerns that force you to eat carefully, weigh the pros and cons of packing or carrying these items. Usually your best bet is to buy the food items when you arrive at your destination.

Of course, it’s always possible you may be heading somewhere without many options, like a small town in the Midwest. In that case, consider ordering from a specialty food store or even Amazon. Or you could just box the items up and ship them yourself. Either way, your favorite foods and ingredients will be waiting for you when you arrive at your destination.

Have you ever shipped, carried, or checked food items for the holidays? How did you do it? Would you do it again or have you found a new method? Leave a comment or let us hear from you on our Facebook page.

TSA Needs to be Consistent on New Security Rules for Electronics

October 7, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

The TSA is now requiring anyone flying into the US to be able to turn on their mobile phones and other mobile devices whenever prompted by security. Right now, the plan is only in effect for those traveling into the United States, but it could eventually become standard procedure here in the US.

So far, each airport has approached the policy differently. Heathrow Airport in the UK is checking devices at the gate while others are checking them at security or at check-in. Many people are confused by the new rules, with a lack of consistent direction from the airports.

Heathrow has put up signs to instruct people about the device policy, and others should be following their lead soon. Airlines and airports will be posting the policy on their websites to allow for more people to understand the new policy before arriving at the airport.

At Travelpro, we’re curious whether the security will screen every single device or randomly select based on some criteria. TSA recently released a statement that said that “officers may also ask that owners power up their devices,” which suggests that not everyone will be required to.

We also wonder how the TSA will enforce this policy? Most of the screening will be done overseas and therefore under other countries’ control. Will TSA require certain regulations and reports? Will this be a cooperative effort between all the countries?

All airport security processes are somewhat networked, but they’re also independent. Therefore, they don’t have to follow each others’ rules and requirements. However, because each agency and country is concerned with security, we would hope that they would work together to ensure everyone’s safety.

If you are unsure how the device policy is going to work and you are traveling, call the airport or search on their website to find more information. Homeland Security has commanded TSA to regulate this policy with little disruption if possible, so we hope this will be the case for all travelers in the future.

The best move for a traveler is to have their mobile devices charged before arriving at the airport. If you are chosen to turn on your device, you will be prepared.

A Behind-The-Scenes Look at TSA’s Baggage Check

September 9, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Boarding a plane can be a hectic journey. You don’t want to miss your flight or forget your passport or go to the wrong terminal. But have you ever thought about the journey your bags go on once you check them?

CBS 46’s Pothole Harry did a fascinating behind the scenes report on where your luggage goes. At Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the world’s busiest airport, TSA screens about 30,000 bags per day. (One surprising tidbit: oftentimes, your luggage boards the plane before you do.)

The way the system works is that the Transportation Safety Administration has some very large scanners and an intricate conveyor belt. Each bag is sorted and scanned, as the system looks for questionable items, using an algorithm that looks for certain objects. If an item is found and flagged, the system then alerts an operator and the bag is sent for further inspection. Something may be considered questionable if it’s flammable, sharp like knives, or alive, like the suitcase full of live crabs someone had tried to check through the system.

TSA Bag CheckTSA will open your bag, inspect it, and then place a note in the bag that informs you of the search and identifies themselves. They do this so, when travelers open their suitcase and find things packed differently, they know why. If there are any questions about missing items, the name on the note will help the TSA identify who inspected your bag. There are also hundreds and thousands of security cameras in the inspection area to cut down on theft.

How our luggage is handled, where it goes, and who touches it is valuable information. Knowing the airlines and TSA have a solid system is important, because it ensures our safety in the air, and helps reduce the amount of lost luggage each year.

Photo credit: Bradley Gordon (Flickr, Creative Commons)

TSA’s New Smartphone Rules May Cause Bigger Problems

August 14, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Thanks to new proposed rules regarding dead mobile phones and tablets, many travelers are worried about what could happen if their portable electronics die before they get through airport security.

The new rules require that all electronic devices must be able to be powered up at security, after it was revealed that Al Qaeda has figured out how to disguise bombs in electronic devices without detection. Currently, the only flights affected are those going into the United States, but not out of the country, or within it.

The Controversy

Cell phone and battery charger

Cell phone and battery charger

What happens when someone cannot power up his or her devices? According to an article by Conde Nast, the dead devices would be held at the airport or could be shipped to the owner’s house. If the devices are held at the airport, where would they be stored and what kind of security would oversee this storage? Many people have expressed concern at possibly being without their phones because of a dead battery, especially when their power cable is in their luggage.

The Costs

If the devices are to be shipped to the owner’s house, this method could be quite costly, especially for travelers returning to the US. Depending on how the policy is enacted and enforced, there could be a lot of confiscated devices to process.

One suggestion we’ve seen lately is to install electrical outlets and chargers at security stations. This means airports would have to relocate power supplies and install plugs. Then they would have to allow time for devices to charge enough to power up. However, this would solve the problem for travelers whose mobile device died in the airport. Another possibility would be charging stations outside security, where people can charge for several minutes before entering the line.

Will This Create Backups?

On the other hand, what kind of problems could be created as people fumble with dead phones, trying to charge them at the new stations, or even arranging them to have sent back home. And, what if you miss your flight? Though the new rules are for safety and security, the implementation process could cause quite a dilemma for many travelers if it’s not planned and implemented well.

Word to the wise: regardless of where you’re traveling, charge all your devices before heading out to catch your flight.

Photo credit: Jeremy Page (Flickr, Creative Commons)

Gatwick Airport Tests Hi-Tech Security and Passenger Technology

August 12, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Remember how impressed you were the first time you saw an airport faucet that turned on automatically when you waved your hand in front of them? (Don’t pretend you weren’t!)

It’s almost shocking how far airports have come technologically since then. Case in point: Gatwick Airport’s chief information officer, Michael Ibbitson, recently told FutureTravelExperience.com about the new technology that’s not just wowing passengers, but also streamlining the passenger experience and making travel safer for everyone. Let’s take a look at some of the technological advances Gatwick has made.

Speeding Up Bag Check

English: Gatwick South Terminal Zone K check-i...

Gatwick South Terminal Zone K check-in concourse (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Automated bag check and check-in are technologies well on their way to mass adoption at this point, but Gatwick is aiming to make them more efficient than ever.

EasyJet has been testing a bag drop system fueled by Phase 5 Technology at its Gatwick hub. According to Ibbitson, the average passenger took 76 seconds to process — the goal is to get passengers through in 45 — so they’re tweaking the system, working toward maximum efficiency.

Automated Security

One of the major headaches of air travel, no matter how far you’re traveling, is getting through security. Gatwick is attempting to make security checkpoints smoother by automating them — the systems installed in 2012 have cut wait time to an average of a mere 107 seconds — and installing Security Max lanes that will enable even more passengers to prepare for the checkpoint at once.

Iris Scanning Technology

The wildest technology we read about: Biometrics as a single passenger token. The gist is that when you check in at the airport and drop your bag off, a machine also scans your iris — an identity marker that’s almost impossible to forfeit — and all your passenger information, from baggage tracking to your passport and boarding pass, is encoded into the scan.

A single scan of your iris is all it takes to move you through the rest of the travel process throughout the airport — and even at your destination.

According to the Future Travel Experience post, this technology is well within reach — it’s the widespread implementation of the technology at airports worldwide that will take some time.

What technology would you most like to see implemented in your favorite airport? The sky’s the limit, so they say — leave a comment with your loftiest technology dreams.

Avoid These Common Travel Scams

June 26, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

Benjamin Corey is an author, speaker, and blogger who frequently travels internationally, so he knows part of the travel game is for some locals to try to rip off unsuspecting tourists. He’s always on his guard and knows most travel scams. But after his flight to the Democratic Republic of Congo was delayed by a few hours, he found himself stranded outside the airport without his designated ride.

In a very dangerous area, he was very relieved when a taxi driver called his name and announced himself as the new ride. Turns out, this taxi driver was not his new designated ride at all, and Corey found himself in a life-or-death situation. Corey was able to draw on his years of experience and knowledge to escape the situation unharmed, frightened and embarrassed, but able to see where he went wrong. (It’s an interesting read.)

We were reminded of Benjamin’s story after seeing a Mental Floss article about several different travel scams flogged on unsuspecting tourists. Here are a few of our “favorites,” and how you can avoid them.

    Attention aux PickPockets (dans La Tour Eiffel...

    Attention aux PickPockets (dans La Tour Eiffel) @EiffelTower (Photo credit: dullhunk)

  • The Store Scam: A local starts up a conversation and mentions that his family owns a local store where you can get great deals on local goods. Deals that sound too good to be true (which should be your first clue). When you go to the store, you will be extorted and badgered for everything you have, and the deals aren’t that good to begin with.
  • The Change Scam: Merchants will often try to not give you exact change back, or give you change with incorrect exchange rates. To prevent this, carry small bills/coins or pay with your credit card. This helps you avoid getting shortchanged on the exchange rate as well.
  • The Taxi Scam: The very same scam that Benjamin Corey knew to avoid but still fell victim to. Before getting into cabs, ask if the driver knows the directions and for the ride fee. If he or she cannot answer, the ride is likely not legitimate. Try to only catch cabs in front of an airport or hotel, rather than just flagging one down that “looks like” a cab. If at all possible, arrange for a private driver to pick you up beforehand. Try to get a photo of your driver emailed to you, and ask him or her to confirm with you, even with a simple passphrase, like “John sent me.”
  • The Distraction Scam: You’re walking down the street. Someone bumps into you, spilling their drink or food on you in the process. They apologize and try to help clean you up, or so you think. You were actually just pickpocketed. Keep your money secured on your person, and don’t carry everything with you.
  • The Fake Cop scam: If a cop asks for you to pay a fine on the spot, he’s most likely looking for a bribe. Respond by politely saying you will only pay at a police station. Stick to this answer even if the cop becomes loud and aggressive.
  • The Dropped Ring Scam: A local will say he found a dropped gold ring, which likely isn’t even gold. He will give it to you, then demand a finder’s fee. He may even begin shouting to attract attention in the hopes of embarrassing you into paying. Don’t accept the ring in the first place, and just walk away. Drop it again, if necessary.

In all cases, it’s best to walk away from the situation as soon as you realize what’s going on. Never hand anyone your money, your camera, or any of your belongings. Keep your wallet and money in a secure place. And always take an official taxi; never accept a ride from a local.

How To Protect Your Money When Traveling

June 24, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

For some, international travel can be that once-in-a-lifetime adventure they’ve planned for years. For others, it’s just another day at the office. But whether you’re setting foot on new shores for the first time, or everyone shouts your name when you walk into the airport, your trip can turn sour if you don’t know how to protect yourself and your money.

Here are a few tips to keep worry-free about your money during your overseas travel.

    Money

    Do not carry this much money, or carry it like this, when traveling. (Photo credit: AMagill)

  • Make several copies of your identification. Carry your driver’s license with you, but have a backup copy with a friend or spouse. Do the same with your passports.
  • Alert your bank that you will be traveling, especially if you’re traveling internationally. Because while you know you’re in Istanbul, and your family knows you’re in Istanbul, all your bank sees is a sudden flurry of activity in Turkey. They may freeze your account to protect you against fraudulent purchases. Let them know beforehand to ensure your money is available when you need it.
  • Slim down your wallet. Bring identification, debit/credit cards and insurance cards, but leave the extras at home. If you lose your wallet, it will save you time from having to replace every card you’ve ever accumulated. Finally, carry little cash, as it bulks up your wallet and makes you an easy target for pickpockets. Carry your cash in a front pocket.
  • Do not use a money belt. A money belt, just like a fat wallet, will make you an easy target for thieves.
  • Finally, we are releasing a business case line with RFID (radio frequency identification) protection. Since many credit cards, and even the U.S. passport, use RFID, it’s easy for an identify thief to just stand nearby and capture all your electronic information. Our RFID protective cases block these individuals from gathering your information, leaving your finances, and your trip, intact.

What are some other money-protecting traveling tips you have? What strategies do you use? Or what are some lessons you learned the hard way? Leave a comment here or on our Facebook page.

London Stansted Airport Begins Using Smart Access Security Gates

June 19, 2014 by · Leave a Comment 

London Stansted Airport is pioneering new technology to the airline industry by introducing smart access security gates in its terminals. At London’s third busiest airport just 30 miles northeast of the city center, the new smart access security gates will be able to scan boarding cards, passports and identification cards.

The gates will serve as an extra level of security, by correctly identifying flight passengers and also assist the boarding process by removing the hassles commonly involved with current boarding systems. Less hassle means less time and greater efficiency for the passenger, the airline, security personnel and the airport.

If the tests are successful, there is a good chance the new technology will be adopted by other airports around the globe. At the current rate of technological evolution, the creators believe it will be more affordable within the coming years. And with London Stansted creating the blueprint, other airports will be able to more easily adopt it just by following Stansted’s lead.

The goal of introducing smart access security gates is to improve the passenger experience by automating as much of the boarding process as possible. Customer service agents will still be available to assist customers, but they won’t be tied down with the mundane chores that can be done more efficiently through technology. They will be available to solve real customer problems, instead of printing and collecting boarding passes and checking the customer’s ID multiple times.

While some people may have security concerns about the automated system, we know from our work in the industry that airport officials wouldn’t just adopt new technology if they weren’t convinced of its effectiveness and safety. The fact that they’re considering it at all makes us believe they have a lot of the bugs worked out. If they weren’t convinced, they wouldn’t even try it out on a small scale because the risk is too high.

As a result, we believe this is going to be part of the coming wave of gate and ticketing automation that will result in faster and more pleasant flying experiences for airline customers’ everywhere.

A New TSA Program Walks on All Fours

October 29, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

If you’ve flown out of Denver International Airport recently, you may have noticed that airport security has gone to the dogs… bomb-sniffing dogs, that is. In an effort to speed up security lines, the Transportation Security Administration is testing out a new program featuring passenger-screening canines (or PSCs) at several major airports throughout the United States.

The new program, which rolled out this summer, allows passengers who have passed canine inspection to move into the TSA’s Pre-Check line, where they can pass through the standard x-ray screening process without having to remove their shoes, electronics and so on. The TSA’s canines are trained to sniff for explosives, not drugs.

According to Carrie Harmon, a TSA regional public affairs manager based in Denver, “The canine can also detect an explosive odor or scent trail, after a person has transited an area, and subsequently follow the scent trail to the explosive source, even if the source is mobile.”

TSA security search

TSA security search (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Aviation expert Mike Boyd agrees, stating, “The dog takes care of that very, very effectively. The only reason we take off our shoes and do all that over stuff is because the other machinery really doesn’t know how to look at it. So this makes a lot of sense for everybody.”

Although this particular program is new, the TSA’s canine program isn’t. In fact, airport security officials have used canines to detect contraband and suspicious behavior since before the TSA even existed. According to Jeff Price, a professor at Metropolitan State University of Denver and the author of a textbook on aviation security, “The canine program has been around since the early ’70s. There is a lot of research over the course of the past five decades that the dogs are accurate. They’re the gold standard right now.”

So far, the response to the TSA’s new screening program appears to be quite positive. As one passenger tweeted, “Straight through security in two minutes with shoes on and laptops/liquids in bag. Testing new security procedures at Denver. Nice job.” According to Carrie Harmon, the TSA hopes to expand the program to more airports in the near future.

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Water Bottle Filling Stations Coming to Airports

October 17, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

Anyone who’s flown at least once can vouch for the fact that airports can be almost expensive as an amusement park. Out of all of the products for sale within airports, beverages may quite possibly be the most inflated in price. In fact, depending on the airport and the kiosk you purchase it from, a regular-sized bottle of water may cost you five dollars or more. With pricey add-ons such as these, it’s getting more and more difficult to stay within budget while traveling.

Why is the price of beverages so inflated in airports? Simple: supply and demand. Unfortunately, because Travel Safety Administration rules prevent passengers from bringing drinks through security, those who wish to carry a bottle of water with them onto their flight must suck it up and pay the price. While filling a water bottle in the bathroom is an option, it’s not easy. Airport sinks can be quite shallow, and the motion-sensor faucet makes it difficult to get a steady stream of water.

My water bottle

(Photo credit: Jeremy McWilliams)

Thankfully, airports have begun to take note of this issue and many have begun installing water bottle filling stations throughout their terminals. In 2010, Chicago’s O’Hare and Midway Airports and San Francisco International Airport installed refillable water bottle stations throughout their facilities in an effort to not only accommodate customers, but also to cut down on landfill waste.

Together, the two stations at O’Hare saved 220,717 bottles [within the first year of the program]” Gregg Cunningham of the Chicago Department of Aviation told MSNBC back in 2011.

Although it’s taken a few years for other airports to catch on, the trend has finally caught on. As of June, Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson International Airport began installing 52 bottle refill stations throughout the airport. Many of the existing water fountains will be retrofitted with anti-microbial copper faucets. The airport is looking to include touch-free refill stations as well.

Because these water bottle refill stations have been so well-received in existing airports, many others are expected to follow suit. Next time you’re getting ready to enter a TSA security checkpoint, dump your water but retain the bottle. You just may save yourself a few bucks.

  • Airport Snacks on a Budget (livingbigonabudget.com)
  • Franklin and Marshall adds new water-filling stations (wgal.com)
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