Avoid the Lines and Make Your Flight on Time

In the past months, you’ve probably seen and heard a lot about excruciatingly long lines at airport security checkpoints. At Chicago O’Hare in May, more than 400 passengers had to spend the night on cots and the floor after missing their flights. Flyers across the country are rightfully upset, prompting the Twitter hashtag, #iHatetheWait.

While the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has been increasing employee overtime and bringing in more screening officers, airline officials are also exploring the pros and cons of privatizing airport security.

In the meantime, here are some things you can do to help ensure that you get to the airport early and make your scheduled flight.

Summer travel tips from the TSA

1. Apply for a trusted traveler program, such as TSA Pre✓®, Global Entry or NEXUS. These help expedite the boarding and security check process. To find out which trusted traveler program best suits your needs, see the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Trusted Traveler Program comparison chart.

2. Make sure you have proper ID, such as a driver’s license or other state photo identity card issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles. Important: Make sure that your name matches your boarding pass. For a list of accepted IDs, see the TSA’s Identification page.

3. Don’t pack prohibited items. Knowing what is prohibited at the airport and on planes will help the screening process go much quicker. Even if an item is generally permitted, it may be subject to additional screening or not allowed through the checkpoint if it triggers an alarm during the screening process, appears to have been tampered with, or poses other security concerns. If you’re not sure what’s prohibited, check the TSA’s list of prohibited items at TSA.gov.

4. Leave plenty of time. Arrive at least two hours before your flight when flying domestic, and three hours early when flying international. Allow for more time at larger, busier airports.

5. Prepare for airport security checkpoints by having your ID and boarding pass out. Remove large electronics from bags, such as a laptop; remove 3-1-1 compliant liquid bags, and consider checking your bags instead of carrying them on to save time.

What’s the 3-1-1 liquids rule?

According to the TSA’s 3-1-1 liquids rule, you are allowed to bring a quart-sized bag of liquids, aerosols, gels, creams and pastes through the checkpoint. These are limited to 3.4 ounces (100 milliliters) or less per item.

Additional advice from a travel expert

Wall Street Journal travel writer, Scott McCartney, shares some useful travel tips he’s compiled over the years talking to travelers like you.

McCartney thinks the most important thing when going through airport security and dealing with the TSA is to be consistent and have a routine. For example, it’s very easy to end up losing your driver’s license when walking through the airport because you’re taking it out of your pocket a lot, and you may forget where you put it. His routine is to instantly put his license back in his wallet before he moves on.

When it comes to carryon baggage, make sure you put items, such as books, electronics and liquids back in the same compartment every time, so you know exactly where they are and where to unzip to get to them. He also thinks it’s good practice to put larger bags through the x-ray belt first, with the laptop being the last thing that goes through.

This way, if you get delayed at the metal detector/body scanner machine, your laptop will be the last to come out, and you’ll have the laptop bag already. You don’t want to be standing there holding your shoes, laptop, etc. without a bag.

McCartney also suggests printing your boarding pass early. Here’s why: Not only does it eliminate a stop at the airline’s check-in counter — if you don’t have to check a bag — but it’s an important way to claim your seat on the flight. If you’re an infrequent flyer flying on a less expensive ticket, and the flight is overbooked, those who have not checked in are in greater danger of being bumped from the flight, if the airline has to bump somebody and can’t get enough volunteers.

Since compensation is based on the price of your ticket, airlines typically look for the cheapest tickets, and so if you check-in and claim your seat early, it makes it harder for the gate agent to bump you from the flight.

Visit TSA.gov for more flying tips and to learn about how you can receive expedited screening through TSA Pre✓®.

Safety Checklist for Traveling Alone

“To awaken quite alone in a strange town is one of the pleasantest sensations in the world,” said Freya Stark. While traveling alone can be an enriching experience, it has its unique challenges. Here’s what to do and be aware of when traveling solo, courtesy of John Golicz, CEO and founder of Unicomm, LLC.

Book a hotel for increased safety.
House-sharing companies such as Airbnb can be a great affordable alternative to pricey hotels, but if you’re traveling alone, a hotel can offer increased safety, including locked entrance and room doors, a key card, security staff and cameras.

It’s ok to change your mind.
If you check in somewhere and don’t feel comfortable, move to another hotel. Security always comes first and always trust your instincts, especially when traveling alone.

Move through the airport quickly.
Airports are crowded, and a person traveling alone can be a potential target for thieves. So move as quickly as possible through the airport to the secure area.

Always pick your own taxi.
Never let a stranger pick a taxi cab for you. Again, trust your instinct in this situation. If someone offering a ride seems questionable, or you just feel weird, move on to the next one. Once you get into a taxi, be sure to check that the person driving matches the license photo at the front of the car.

Take a photo of your hotel’s info.
One of the great things about smartphones is having an easy camera on hand. So use it to take photos of your hotel’s stationery with address and numbers on it and send it to a friend or relative. Also take a photo of the street that the hotel is on, subway stop, etc—anything that can help finding the hotel easier if you get lost.

Store important documents in the cloud.
It’s important to have physical copies of your passport and banking info on hand, but store all critical documents in the cloud as well as backup. When you do this, you won’t panic if anything gets lost or stolen, and you’ll be able to print these documents anywhere that has internet.

Consider a travel tour company.
A great way to travel alone, but not be alone, is to book a trip with a travel adventure company. There are many choices for trip themes, from cooking and foodie tours to extreme adventures. Choose a tour with about 10-15 people and search for adventures that will have like-minded travelers.

Use apps for a smooth trip.
Smartphone apps really can make travel easier. Always be sure to download your airline’s travel app, too. This is the best resource for up-to-date flight information.

Source: 8 Important Safety Tips For the Solo Traveler, 1000traveltips.com

What to Know about Flying with Pets

If you’re a pet owner who travels a lot, you know how difficult it can be to leave your four-legged family member behind—both emotionally and logistically. Whatever your reason for wanting to fly with your pet (you’re going on vacation, moving or showing your pet in a national dog show) it’s generally easier to fly with pets today than it was a decade ago. Here’s an overview of what to know about flying with Fido—or Morris.

Small dogs in the cabin

Most commercial airlines offer only two options for pets: cabin or cargo. Usually only small dogs that will fit in a crate or carrier can ride in the cabin with the owner. (We’ll explain the exceptions in a moment.)

Most airlines charge around $100.00 per pet, per carrier, and limit the number of dogs per flight to around five. Dog weight and carrier measurement requirements vary by airline, but small dogs usually need to fit comfortably in a carrier that is approximately 8-9 inches high, 12-13 inches wide and 15-23 inches long. The dog must also be able to stand and easily turn around in the carrier.

Medium to large in the cargo

With some exceptions, medium- to large-size dogs have to ride in the cargo hold area of a commercial airliner. This section of the plane, located below the cabin, usually has the proper ventilation, air pressure, and heating or cooling required for a safe animal flight, but it is beneath the passenger section and nobody will be able to check on your pet.

On newer jets, a separate area is walled off specifically for pets. While this area is usually safe for pets, there have been cases of pets getting loose, or overheating or freezing during flight, so be sure to check the airline’s pet cargo policy and ask the airline specific questions about your pet’s safety before committing to the flight. You can also check the Department of Transportation (DOT) for monthly airline incident reports involving pets. While there is some risk, thousands of pets safely fly every year and get to their destination in need of a good stretch, but otherwise just fine.

Emotional support dogs

Some commercial airlines will make an exception and allow large dogs to fly in the cabin, if they are an “emotional support animal.” The Air Carrier Access Act of 1986 broadened the American Disabilities Act, which recognized service animals in public places.

The Air Carrier Access Act allows for mentally or emotionally impaired persons to be accompanied on flights by an emotional support animal on the condition that the correct documentation, including a letter from a licensed physician or mental health professional verifying that the emotional support animal would provide some degree of comfort, is provided.

If a pet is determined to be an emotional support animal, they are not restricted to a crate/carrier and are even allowed to sit on their guardian’s lap, unlike other animals who must fit under the seat in a carrier. Additionally, airlines are not allowed to charge additional fees when your support animal accompanies you.

Ready to fly? Here’s what to know and do.

Is Fido fit to fly?
Before moving forward with travel plans, determine honestly if your pet is a good candidate for air travel. If your pet is very young, very old or not in good health, it’s best to leave them at home. Also, some breeds don’t travel well in cargo, such as snub-nosed dogs like pugs, which are prone to breathing difficulties. Many major airlines no longer allow such breeds to fly in the cargo hold.

Visit the vet
If you’re moving ahead with plans, make an appointment with your pet’s veterinarian for a check-up and make sure all vaccinations are up to date. Obtain a health certificate from your veterinarian dated within 10 days of departure. For travel outside the United States, additional planning and health care requirements may be necessary.

Buy and test a carrier
Be sure to buy a carrier that best suits your pet and the airline’s requirements. Carriers are available in both hard-sided and soft-sided. Soft-sided carriers are more suitable for carry-on and tend to fit better under the seat, but they’re only permitted in the cabin only. If your dog will be traveling in the cargo hold, purchase a hard plastic carrier with holes for ventilation instead.

Carriers must be big enough for your dog to stand, turn around, and lie down comfortably. If the carrier does not permit him to do this, the airline will refuse transport.

To make sure the carrier will fit under the seat on your flight, check the size restrictions of the airline. After you’ve purchased an appropriate carrier, write your dog’s name on it and include identification tags with your home address and phone number, and the best number to reach you while traveling.

Pet photo and ID
Just in case, snap a photo of your pet with your phone and print a few copies in case he gets lost during the trip—it will make it easier for airline employees and local authorities to search more efficiently. You might also consider a permanent form of ID, such as a microchip or tattoo that will help track down your pet if lost.

Call and book early
Airlines require advance notice of traveling animals, and the number allowed in cabins varies by carrier, so book your pet’s ticket as soon as possible. It’s best to call the airline and make sure there is a “seat” available for your pet on the flight. Once the agent has confirmed availability, reserve both your seats on the same ticket while you’re still on the phone with the agent.  Some airlines are more pet-friendly than others. JetBlue has a four-legged loyalty program, JetPaws.

Fly direct, if possible
If possible, book a non-stop, direct flight and try to fly on a weekday when airports are typically less hectic. If your pet will be traveling in the cargo hold, it’s best to fly in the morning or evening during the summer, and midday during the winter to avoid extremely hot or cold temperatures.

Get to the airport early
On the day of the flight, get to the airport at least two hours before departure, but no more than four. Go straight to the airline’s check-in counter—curbside and self-service check-in are not allowed.  Have your dog’s health certificate handy. You will not be allowed to check your pet in more than four hours before the flight.

Food, water, exercise
Feed your pet about four hours before the flight so they have a chance to digest before boarding. Then continue to give the pet water right up to the time of travel. Empty the dish before checking in so it doesn’t spill during the flight. If you’re checking the dog, leave the dishes in the carrier so an airline employee can provide your pet with food and water in the event of an extended delay before or after your flight. Before leaving for the airport, take your pet for a walk to get some exercise and empty his bladder to make the flight more comfortable.

Relax, don’t sedate
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, in most cases, dogs should not be given sedatives or tranquilizers prior to flying because they can create respiratory and cardiovascular problems as the dog is exposed to increased altitude pressures.

They can also alter the animal’s natural ability to balance and maintain equilibrium, which can cause them to be off balance and get hurt. Popular television dog trainer, Cesar Millan, recommends using lavender oil as an “association scent” to help your pet relax while flying. In the weeks before the flight, he suggests putting a drop of oil on your hands at feeding times or before walks. Once onboard, “the positive association will allow him to calm down and remain relaxed.”

Once you’ve arrived

When your flight arrives at your destination airport, if your pet was in the cargo area, it will be delivered to baggage claim. At most domestic airports, with the exception of certified service animals, pets in the airport terminals are not allowed outside their carrier crates, and violations may be subject to a fine.

Service animals are permitted on airport trans and leashed animals are permitted in pet-friendly areas of the airport, such as Animal Relief Areas. Animal Relief Areas provide drinking areas with bowls and garbage areas with mutt mitt dispensers.

Some airports have built pet-friendly “resort” areas. Denver International Airport offers “Paradise 4 Paws,” featuring private suites, flat screen TVs, massage therapy, on-site medical experts, and obedience training.

When you’re ready to leave the airport, take your dog for a long walk before you check-in at the hotel to let your pet stretch, relieve itself and acclimate. Also expect them to sniff out the area and hotel room before settling down.  Stay calm and relaxed, and your pet should calm down within a few hours ready to enjoy your joint vacation.

Contact the airports you will be traveling through for details about their specific pet policies.

Packing list checklist

Don’t forget these items when packing your dog’s suitcase:

  • Health certificate and medical records
  • Contact information for your regular veterinarian and an emergency contact at your destination
  • Comb, brush, and flea control products
  • Any special medication your dog might need
  • Spare collar with id tag
  • Pet wipes or grooming products
  • Paper towels and stain remover
  • Enough dog food and treats for the entire trip
  • Plenty of bottled water (a sudden change can upset your dog’s stomach)
  • Food and water dishes
  • Leash and poop bags
  • Your dog’s favorite toy and blanket
  • A list of dog friendly restaurants and attractions at your destination

Sources: www.bringfido.com and www.dogfriendly.com

How to Pack Effectively for the Plane

Effectively packing for a flight can be the difference between an enjoyable, stress-free trip and an on-the-road nightmare. Forget an essential item and you’re scrambling to find the nearest store; pack too much and you end up disorganized and having to pay extra for a bag fee. Here are 10 fundamental packing strategies that every traveler should learn from Caroline Costello at SmarterTravel.com.

Roll, don’t fold.

Many travel experts—including backpackers, who must stuff months’ worth of clothing into a bag the size of a box of wine—agree that rolling is superior to folding. Tightly rolled clothes take up less space than folded ones. Plus, they’re less prone to getting deep wrinkles from fold creases.

Make a packing list

When it comes to packing, procrastinators fall short. Start your packing process days or even weeks ahead of your departure date; this gives you time to craft a complete list, plus purchase any additional items you might need for your vacation. Creating a packing list is a fail-safe way to ensure that you never, ever forget to bring something important.

Know your airline’s baggage-fee policy

Figuring out the airlines’ tricky and befuddling baggage-fee policies is key to any budget-minded packing strategy. While most airlines permit travelers to check at least one bag on international flights, the majority of U.S. carriers charge big bucks for bags checked on domestic flights. Spirit Airlines—that notoriously customer-unfriendly discounter—even charges as much as $100 for carry-on bags.

Avoid bag fees with these packing tips

Before you begin packing, take a peek at your airline’s website and read its baggage policy. This is something you might even want to do prior to buying your plane ticket, especially if you’re set on bringing a checked bag or two. Consider flying on Southwest, which permits at least one free checked bag on domestic flights.

Know the TSA’s 3-1-1 rule

What happens if you don’t follow the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) 3-1-1 rule for carry-on luggage? If you attempt to bring a large bottle of shampoo or a full-size gel deodorant through the security line, a TSA agent will confiscate your stuff, holding you up in line in the process. So get familiar with the agency’s rules: All liquids brought onto planes must be in 3.4-ounce bottles or smaller and inside a single, clear, quart-size zip-top bag.

Use your personal item wisely

It’s standard for airlines to permit each traveler to bring one carry-on bag and one personal item onboard planes. This personal item is subject to specific size requirements (these vary by airline), but something like a purse, laptop bag, or backpack is generally acceptable.

In her article, “Five Tips for Fitting it All in a Carry-on Bag,” Caroline Morse advises travelers to leverage their personal-item allowance, suggesting, “Forget wasting my personal-item allowance with a tiny purse. I’ll bring a larger tote bag that I can stash under the seat but will still give me extra storage space. This will come in handy for keeping all of the things I’ll need to be on hand during the flight within arms’ reach as well.”

Wash your clothes on the road

If you’re staying in a hotel, call in advance to see if laundry services are available and how much they cost. Travelers staying in properties without laundry facilities or taking cruises—cruise lines are notorious for charging an arm and a pant leg for laundry services—can wash clothes in sinks and hang them to dry. Pack a travel-size packet of laundry detergent and a sink stopper to clean your clothes in the bathroom sink in your hotel room. Some hotels have them now, but just in case, purchase a portable laundry-drying line with suction cups that attach to shower walls for drying.

Pack dual-purpose garments

If it’s two-in-one, it’s one less thing to pack. Dual-purpose items, such as pants that turn into shorts or a jacket that turns into a travel pillow are worth their weight in airline baggage fees.

Layer

This advice is twofold: Wear layers and pack in layers. First, your on-the-road wardrobe should feature plenty of layers, which will help you jetset through multiple climates in style and comfort. Second, the items in your bag should be packed in neat layers for easy screening. According to the TSA, “Pack items in layers (shoes one layer, clothes one layer, electronics one layer, etc.)” so that the security agent screening your bag can get a clear picture of what’s inside. The faster the TSA agent can screen your stuff, the faster you’ll get through the security line.

Never check essential items

It’s terribly important to keep your valuable and essential belongings in your carry-on bag, not in your checked luggage. Your passport, identification, money, credit cards, jewelry, electronics, and other valuables should always be brought onto the plane with you. We probably don’t need to tell you why you need to keep your passport and wallet on your person. But if the airline loses your luggage (or if a TSA agent gets sticky fingers), you’ll regret stowing your expensive watch in a checked bag.

Use packing aids

To make your clothes even more compact, pick up an Eagle Creek Compression Sac. You can use it to shrivel your clothes into a tight, vacuum-packed bundle that takes up very little suitcase space. Other packing aids that can help you organize better and fit more into your bag include packing envelopes and packing cubes.

Best Countries for Travel in 2016

Few things can be as exhilarating as traveling to a new country. Need some ideas on where to go and why? Read on for LonelyPlanet.com’s list of the top 10 countries to travel to in 2016.

Begin your journey

Africa’s unsung success
Botswana can be described as democratic, progressive, enlightened and invigoratingly wild. Botswana’s journey from poverty to become one of Africa’s most stable, thriving societies is inspirational. The country celebrates 50 years of independence in 2016 and there’s a lot for it to shout about, not least the way it has balanced economic growth with protecting its natural riches. Prepare for a severe case of slack-jawed-with-awe syndrome when you visit.

Japan’s new horizons
Japan might be number two in this year’s rankings, but it’s always number one for travelers in search of an otherworldly experience. Nowhere else on earth exemplifies that dog-eared ‘modern yet ancient’ cliché like the land of the rising sun. Tokyo’s successful bid to host the Olympics in 2020 has raised the temperature of a feverish city amid a blur of new development, but beyond the suburbs Japan remains as elegant and enticing as its graceful wooden temples.

Celebrate our national parks
The National Park Service—the “best idea America ever had”—turns 100 next year, so lace on your hiking boots and finally make time to see some of the country’s 59 national parks and hundreds of historic landmarks. You’ll marvel at the miraculously well-managed surreal and spectacular landscapes, from earth-rending canyons to alligator-infested swamplands to belching geysers.

Palau—the Pacific’s greenest secret
Palau is unquestionably one of the most magical diving and snorkeling destinations in the world—and it’s fighting to stay that way. This far-flung Pacific archipelago has turned 100 percent of its marine territory into a sanctuary in a bid to protect what has been dubbed a ‘Serengeti’ of the sea. Excessive face mask-wearing might leave you with a temporary red mark, but the fish, coral and other critters in these nutrient-rich waters will leave you truly goggle-eyed.

Latvia is shining for its silver anniversary
It’s taken Latvia 25 years to shrug off the fetters of Communism, but this Baltic treasure looks ready to shine for its silver anniversary. The country is resuscitating ancient traditions, restoring crumbling castles and manor houses hidden in its pine forests, and transforming its once stodgy cuisine into cutting-edge New Nordic fare. Seductive Riga, meanwhile, has built on its reign as a European Capital of Culture with improved infrastructure and a round of renovations as its population continues to grow.

Australia—‘nuf said
The strength of the Aussie dollar over recent years has made a trip down under a tough proposition for travelers on a budget. But with the currency faltering and petrol prices also on the slide, 2016 could be the perfect time for a road trip. You’ll want to gawp at the mega sights, naturally, including the Great Barrier Reef and Tasmania’s pristine wilderness, both of which face growing environmental threats. See them now before compromises are made.

Cultural capital crowns Poland’s rise to the top
Recession-defying Poland has superpowers – while the rest of Europe descended into the doldrums, visitor numbers here climbed and there’s no end to the boom in sight as Wrocław prepares for a stint as European Capital of Culture 2016. Kraków will have a turn in the limelight too when the Pope arrives to celebrate World Youth Day, and new air routes to Kraków, Szczecin, Katowice, and Gdańsk means this is a destination on the rise.

Uruguay: more than a buffer state
An estimated three million foreign visitors will arrive in Uruguay next year—but it’s a wonder it isn’t more when you grasp what the “Switzerland of America” has to offer. Sandwiched between Brazil and Argentina, Uruguay has become a progressive society that boasts a small but perfectly formed capital in Montevideo, pampas where you can act out a gaucho (cowboy) fantasy, and nightlife on sea amid the glamour of Punta del Este. Expect that three million to rise.

Chill out in the Arctic
Greenland has the world’s lowest population density, but those that brave this chilly chunk of the planet are not short of diversions: see the midnight sun glimmer on glaciers, sail among breaching whales, dogsled the tundra, and watch the Northern Lights dance across the ice sheet. In March 2016, Greenland will host the Arctic Winter Games, the largest event of its kind ever, along with a festival of song, food and dance. What better time to visit this Arctic wonderland?

Fiji got its groove back
Listen up: the route to paradise just became a little easier. Pleasure-loving Fiji has recovered its equilibrium at last after a coup and constitutional crisis, and travelers will soon benefit from an upgrade to the country’s Nadi International Airport. So what will it be, then? Idle at an upscale resort, try the latest extreme sport, or focus on the classic pursuits of diving, sailing and angling as you soak up what this tropical archipelago has to offer.

Source: The LonelyPlanet.com’s “Top 10 regions

Useful Travel Etiquette Tips

Even if you’re a savvy traveler with hundreds of miles under your shoes, it doesn’t hurt to review some tried and true travel etiquette tips. Because no matter how smart, accomplished, or attractive you are, if you make a major faux pas in front of a decision maker, the deal’s probably not getting done.

Here’s a review of business etiquette for the traveling executive. If you travel often, especially out of the country, be sure to take a few minutes and research the business etiquette and customs of that country or region—it may mean the difference between a successful or disastrous business trip.

Better overdressed than underdressed. Assuming you know the basics of professional dress, just some reminders are in order. Stick with timeless styles and darker colors—they visually demand more respect. Dress one over your paygrade, or for the position you want for your next promotion. When traveling, be sure to check the weather and dress appropriately for the temperature. You don’t want to be the only guy in the room with a sweater on. Make sure your clothes are neatly pressed. Most hotels have irons in them. In a pinch, hang up your clothes in the bathroom and run a hot shower to steam them. And if you haven’t gone shopping in a while, commit to doing so to freshen up your wardrobe.

The art of the handshake. A good handshake is an art full of variables, such as the right timing and pressure. Done correctly, it can show your confidence and create rapport with associates. Don’t extend your hand too early to seem overly eager, and don’t squeeze too hard as to intimidate or cause pain. Also, remember to smile and make good eye contact. When traveling abroad, research the customs and etiquette of that country or region. When in Asian countries, for example, refrain from shaking too hard or too long, and don’t make direct eye contact. A good rule of thumb is to follow the lead of the person you are looking to impress.

Napkin on the lap. As mentioned in the opening, no matter how smart, accomplished or attractive you are, a major faux pas at a meal can ruin the deal. Even if your coworkers or guests are less than formal, stay true to the rules of mealtime etiquette — you never know who’s watching, and it can only benefit your career. Some things to remember: Never talk with your mouth full, take small bites, and be nice to the wait staff. You won’t impress your guest by being overly particular. Also, come to the meal with a few topics to discuss besides business. When in doubt, ask your guest about something you know he or she is interested in, such as golf or wine tasting.

Don’t be a stingy tipper. The old adages, “Money talks” and “Don’t be stingy,” strongly apply when you’re on the road. Tip well at airports, restaurants, hotels—and anywhere a harried business traveler needs a little extra help to get what’s needed. Don’t forget to tip housekeepers, too. Be generous and the staff will take care of you. And in most cases, you can get reimbursed as a travel expense.

Snail mail can go far. Business people are bombarded with emails. In our technological age, you can really stand out by doing a simple thing: handwrite a request, reminder or thank you card. Pick a simple, classy card, and keep it short and tasteful, with phrases such as, “I just wanted to remind you,” and “I’m looking forward to our meeting.” Of course, make sure the recipient’s name and title are spelled correctly.

The Best Free Travel Apps in 2016

Whether you travel occasionally or live out of a suitcase, the right travel app can make your life a lot easier. But with all that’s available, which ones will you really use? Here’s a list of some of the best free travel apps, courtesy of  theguardian.com.

App in the Air
App in the Air is a smart, straightforward, flight tracking app that has the best coverage of airlines and airports. It will keep you updated about flight status—even if you don’t have internet coverage—and helps you manage your time at the airport, breaking down each flight into four stages: check in, boarding, takeoff and landing time. It also integrates with Tripit allowing you to import all your flights.
Free, iOS and Android, appintheair.mobi

Citymapper
Comprehensive, easy to use and also playful, Citymapper offers more detailed journey planner information than Google, including real-time departures and disruption alerts, as well as Uber integration and cycle routes. It is available in around 30 cities worldwide, with all the obvious city-break destinations covered.
Free, iOS and Android, citymapper.com

Duolingo
Over 70 million people have registered with Duolingo, a free and incredibly well-designed language learning app. Although not a replacement for proper language instruction, the app is a fun way to get the basics, or to keep your grammar and vocabulary fresh before a trip abroad. 
Free, iOS and Android, duolingo.com

Google Translate
This translator can be a useful tool to support your own, more serious language learning, but realistically, it’s most useful on a practical level quickly translating day-to-day words you come across on your travels. For example, you can hold your camera up to text, such as a sign, or a menu, and Google will translate it for you instantly.
Free, iOS and Android, https://play.google.com

LiveTrekker
LiveTrekker creates a digital journal of your travels so you can look back on your trips on an interactive map. The app tracks you as you go, marking a red line along a map on the exact route you take. The app also monitors your speed and altitude, making it great for adventure travelers, though it’s just as fun to look back at your route around a city. You can add pictures, video, audio and text along the way, creating a multimedia travel diary you can share.
Free, iOS and Android, livetrekker.com

Time Out
The Time Out app is a great directory of ideas of things to do in cities around the world. With coverage from Accra to Amsterdam, Edinburgh to Singapore, the app covers everything from bars, restaurants, attractions and events. The event finder is a particularly useful tool, meaning you’ll never struggle to find the most popular concerts, festivals or one-off happenings going on around you. You can also book restaurants and concert tickets through the app and create a customized travel guide for your holiday.
Free, iOS  and Android

Tripit
A bit like a pocket travel agent, Tripit pulls together travel information from your confirmation emails for flights, hotels, rental cars, and events bookings and converts it into a single itinerary. Just forward your emails to the app and it will do the rest. If you’re traveling with others you can easily share the plans, making this a useful app for coordinating a group trip.
Free, iOS and Android, tripit.com

XE Currency
XE is the go-to site for currency conversions on the web, so it’s no surprise that its app is so popular. With over 20 million downloads since launch, it has lots of business-oriented features, such as rates for precious metals and historic currency charts, but for the traveler it is most useful for the simple fact that it’s able to convert every world currency. It also functions offline by saving the last updated rates, which is great if you’re in a place with limited connectivity or are trying to save on data.
Free, iOS and Android, xe.com

Android users, download Hoyt’s new free mobile app!

Android users, reserving your Hoyt car just got easier with Hoyt Livery’s free mobile app for Android!

Quickly book a new trip, check on your reservation, keep track of your frequent destinations and update your information, all from your phone or tablet.

Free at the Google Play Store. Download here.

For Apple users, click here.

If you have any questions about our apps, feel free to contact us.

Source: 10 of the best travel apps … that you’ll actually use

Winter Vehicle Safety Checklist

Winter had a late start in the Northeast, but is in full swing. If you procrastinated, here’s a review on what to do to make sure your vehicle can handle the cold temperatures and icy and slushy roads and help keep you and your family safe during the winter months.

Check the tire pressure and consider snow tires.
Tire pressure is especially important during the winter, as a properly inflated tire will help guarantee better traction in wet, snowy conditions. Make sure to read your owner’s manual to find the correct tire pressures. In addition, you may want to consider buying a set of snow tires. Especially if you live in an area that sees a lot of snow, they’ll do a much better job than the all-weather tires fitted to most cars.

Did you add cold-weather oil?
When the outside temperature changes, it will influence the internal temperature of your engine, so make sure you’re using the proper oil for the conditions. Since we live where temperatures get below freezing, you will want to switch over to thinner, less viscous oil. For instance, if you run 10W-40 grade oil in the summer, you may want to move to 5W-30 when changing your oil for the winter. Make sure to refer to your owner’s manual for vehicle-specific information.

Have your battery tested again.
A car battery can die without any notice. The late-season extreme cold temperatures can reduce a car’s battery life by up to 50 percent. Even if you had your battery tested earlier this winter, have your battery tested again by your local mechanic — especially if you have an older car. Also, make sure your battery connections are free of corrosion.

Inspect your windshield wiper blades and fluid.
Visibility while driving during winter months can be a great frustration. Precipitation and salt buildup on the windshield can play havoc while driving in winter weather. So make sure that you not only check the condition of your windshield wiper blades, but also consider changing your existing blades to versions that are made for the harsh winter weather. Also check and fill your wiper fluid reservoir. A harsh winter storm is the worst possible time to run out of wiper fluid.

Make sure the engine coolant has a cold-weather mixture.
A car’s coolant system is not only designed to keep your engine from overheating, but it’s also responsible for protecting it against corrosion. Before the weather gets too cold, make sure you are using coolant that has the proper mix of antifreeze and water. You can do this by purchasing a tester at your local auto parts store.

Keep an emergency kit in your car.
If you don’t already have an emergency kit in your car, consider putting together a few basics and stowing them in the trunk. Naturally, you’ll want to be sure your spare tire is in good shape with all the tools to change it out. But you might also want a few other emergency items in case you slide off the road and get stuck in a snow bank:

  • A flashlight, flares and first aid kit
  • A blanket, warm clothes and gloves
  • A radio
  • A bag of abrasive material like sand or kitty litter for when you get stuck
  • Extra windshield washer fluid
  • A brush or ice scraper
  • Extra coolant

When you take the time to plan ahead, you can make winterizing your vehicle an easy, annual ritual that will help keep you and your family safe on the road.

A warning about warming up your car!

Next time it snows and you have to shovel your vehicle out from the snow, make sure you clear snow from the back and the tail pipe is clear — especially before starting the car with people in it! Every year, tragedy strikes in the form of an odorless, colorless gas called carbon monoxide. People can pass out within minutes causing brain damage, or even die from CO inhalation.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include confused with shortness of breath, nausea, dizziness, light headedness or headaches. So again, make sure the exhaust pipe of a running vehicle is not covered with snow.

Also, a recent Good Morning America segment revealed an increase in vehicle thefts across the country of unlocked cars warming up without their owners in it. Police call these vehicles “puffers,” and car thieves call them easy pickings. So think twice before you leave your vehicle unlocked, unattended and running — it might not be there when you go back outside!

Sources: DMV.org, About.com, Edmunds.com

Why Renting a Limo is Better

While the use of app-based transportation companies has surged in popularity, there have also been a growing number of assaults and other crimes that have taken place between drivers and users. Buyer beware — you don’t know who you’re getting into a car with, and cheaper isn’t better especially when you’re putting yourself at risk.

Here are five reasons why renting a limo from a reputable company like Hoyt Livery is the smarter move.

You’re safer with Hoyt.
Some limousine services are merely “transportation brokers” who take reservations, then hire freelance drivers, without any regard for experience, insurance status or vehicle condition. Not so, with Hoyt Livery! When you hire Hoyt, only an insured and licensed employee of Hoyt will pick you up and drive you. Our chauffeurs are courteous, reliable and well-dressed, and are eager to open doors and help with your bags. So, feel free to relax and have a nip or two. We’ll get you home safely.

More affordable than you think.
With the rising cost of public transportation, tolls and gas, renting a limo can be comparable to taking your family to New York City by train, or driving and parking in a garage. When you hire Hoyt Livery, the rates are competitively priced with other car services, because we understand that people are price conscious in these tough economic times. Another benefit: time is money, as they say. When you ride with Hoyt, you can check email or return phone calls, so you’re not out of the loop at work while you’re riding.

Limits your liability.
Hiring Hoyt also limits your company’s liability before or after a company-sponsored event if an employee is injured or harms another person while driving himself or herself to and from the event. Organizations throughout the tri-state area turn to Hoyt Livery as a responsible measure to keep employees safe from the dangers of drinking and driving.

Pick your luxury vehicle.
Hoyt Livery owns and maintains a luxurious fleet of more than 50 impeccable vehicles, including corporate limousines, executive town cars, and of course, luxury stretch limousines. For larger groups, ask about our vans and Chevy Suburbans. All are on-site, well-maintained and available in as little as three hours’ notice.

Reservations are easy with the app.
With Hoyt’s On–the–Go apps, you can quickly book a new trip, check on your reservation, keep track of your frequent destinations and update your travel information — all from your phone or tablet. Hoyt Livery’s mobile apps are compatible with Apple and Android devices. Download today.

It’s a lot of fun!
Admit it, having a limousine door opened for you and your guest, and being driven to and from Manhattan or other destination is just cool. Have a romantic date in mind, or special day out with the kids? Take it to the next level with a limo and imagine the fun you and your partner, friends and family will have, and the memories you’ll create for a lifetime.

Before you hire a limo.
Thinking about hiring a limousine service for your next outing, or simply to drive you to the airport? Like any other industry, all limo companies are not alike, and choosing the right one could mean the difference between an enjoyable experience, and a nightmare on wheels. Read What to Know Before Hiring a Limo Service.

Making the Most of Your Hotel Stay

When sleeping overnight in a hotel, location and a good rate are just two aspects of an enjoyable stay. Here are some inside tips to help ensure you have a safe, healthy, and happy hotel visit.

Be nice to the staff.
It goes without saying, but basic manners go a long way in hotels and restaurants. Be kind and appreciative to the staff, especially the front desk agent who checks you in. He or she, more than anyone else, can make your stay either a pleasure or disaster.

Keep an eye on CO.
You’re probably aware of the dangers of carbon monoxide (CO), and may even have a CO detector in your home. CO is an odorless, colorless and toxic gas. Because it is impossible to see, taste or smell the toxic fumes, CO — often called “the silent killer”” — can kill before a person is aware of it. The effects of CO vary from person to person, but symptoms generally include headaches, dizziness, disorientation, nausea and fatigue.

When booking a room in a hotel room, ask if they have CO alarms installed in the rooms. If not, don’t book or accept a room equipped with a fuel-burning device, such as a wood-burning stove or gas fireplace. If you stay there anyway, definitely do not let the unit run through the night.

Also, do not book a room that opens onto an enclosed parking area, or next to an indoor garage. There could be CO gas in the air. You may also want to invest in a portable carbon monoxide detector. If symptoms such as headache, dizziness, nausea, weakness, and/or confusion occur, get to fresh air quickly.

Think twice about valet parking.
Remember that scene in the movie, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off when the garage parking attendants took Cameron’s father’s prized 1961 Ferrari 250 GT California convertible for a joyride? “Borrowing” parked cars goes on more than you may realize. Granted, it usually happens with really nice cars, so if you’re just tooling around in a rental, you probably don’t have to worry.

Beware of bedbugs.
It’s not pleasant to think about, but bedbugs are a problem in many hotels across the nation. If you’re worried about bedbugs in a hotel, you can check for them yourself in the bed, sofa, and chairs. Here’s what you need and some telltale signs to look for:

  • Pack a few useful items for identifying bedbug infestations, including a flashlight and a magnifying glass. You can also use an old credit card to scrape and dig for signs of bedbugs.
  • Adult bedbugs are flat, brown, oval, and wingless, about 1/4 to 3/8 inches long. They change from brown to purplish-red after they eat, becoming larger and more cigar-shaped. Young bedbugs look like adults, but smaller.
  • Check the bed’s mattress, box spring, and sheets for any signs, such as rusty or reddish stains on bed linens, pillows and mattresses.
  • Look at carpeting or flooring around and under beds. Bedbug excrement leaves dark spots, about the size of a period on a printed page. Bedbug waste “bleeds” on fabrics like a pen or marker would.
  • Inspect the furniture for bedbug eggs and eggshells, which are white and about 1 mm in size. Open and inspect zippered coverings on furniture and pillows, and at frames and feet of sofas and chairs.
  • Check walls, wall hangings, paintings, clocks, baseboards, floorboards, and electrical outlets. Use an old playing card or credit card to probe and scrape out any live bedbugs, remains, or waste.

BYOG: Bring your own glass.
It’s a little known fact, but hotel housekeepers sometimes use furniture polish to ensure the hotel room glasses sparkle, and don’t have any spots. So, it’s probably a wise idea to pack your own drinking glass, or ask the hotel bartender if you can borrow a clean glass during your stay.

Don’t sleep with the duvet.
Most hotels wash the sheets and blankets on a regular basis, but few, if any, ever wash the duvet covers. So, do yourself a favor and strip that bad boy right off the bed when you get there. If you think you might get cold at night, call the front desk and (nicely) request a clean extra blanket.

Don’t be cheap — tip well.
Tip well, especially a bellman if he brings your luggage up or down from your room in a timely manner. Don’t forget the housekeeper who has to clean your room after you leave, and again, the all-powerful front desk agent — give this person a $10 bill when you check in, and it will help ensure you’re stay is a pleasant one.

Double check incidentals and mini bar bill.
If you’re billed for incidentals and/or the mini bar, be sure to review the bill and make sure charges are legitimate. Hotel staff has been known to steal from a room’s minibar, sticking the guest with an unwarranted bill. If the charges aren’t yours, dispute it. To avoid room extras, bring your own supplies.