Hotels Ranked: The Best and Worst in the U.S.

If you travel often, you’ll want to know how America’s hotels ranked in the latest American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) on the best and worst hotel brands for 2019.

Here are the results, courtesy of Clark.com.

Customers less satisfied than a year ago

The ACSI Travel Report is based on interviews with more than 12,000 customers who were chosen at random and contacted via email from April 2018 to March 2019. Hotels were rated on a scale of 0 to 100.

Hilton and Marriott hotel brands still lead the way, but the study found that hotel guests are overall less satisfied than they were a year ago.

The ACSI report found that hotels are slipping in multiple aspects of customer service: making reservations, check in, staff courtesy, room quality, website/call center satisfaction, and more.

Loyalty programs, hotel amenities (pool, business center), and food service are the lowest rated parts of the guest experience.

And resolving guests’ complaints is more important than ever before, according to the ACSI. Many hotels are now using social media to quickly resolve issues that customers share online.

Results and rankings

Brand: Parent Type ACSI
Ranking
JW Marriott Marriott Luxury 84
Embassy Suites Hilton Upper Upscale 83
Fairfield Inn
& Suites
Marriott Upper Midscale 83
Hilton Garden Inn Hilton Upscale 82
Marriott Hilton Marriott Upper Scale 81
Crowne Plaza
Hotels & Resorts
InterContinental Upscale 81
Courtyard Marriott Upscale 81
Best Western
Premier
Best Western Upscale 81
Holiday Inn
Express
InterContinental Upper Midscale 80
Hampton Hilton Upper Midscale 79
Hilton Hotels
& Resorts
Hilton Upper Upscale 79
AC Hotels Marriott Upscale 79
Residence Inn Marriott Upscale 79
Hyatt Regency Hyatt Upper Upscale 79
Double Tree Hilton Upscale 78
Best Western Best Western Midscale 77
Best Western
Plus
Best Western Upper Midscale 77
Sheraton Marriott Upper Upscale 77
Hyatt Place Hyatt Upscale 77
Wyndham Hotels
& Resorts
Wyndham Upscale 76
Comfort Inn,
Comfort Suites
Choice Upper Midscale 76
Westin Marriott Upper Upscale 76
Holiday Inn InterContinental Upper Midscale 75
La Quinta Inns
& Suites
La Quinta
(Wyndham)
Midscale 74
Quality Choice Upper Midscale 73
Baymont Wyndham Midscale 72
Ramada Wyndham Midscale 71
Days Inn Wyndham Economy 68
Econo Lodge Choice Economy 67
Super 8 Wyndham Economy 65
Motel 6 G6 Hospitality Economy 63
Source: Clark.com

Best Summer Vacation Destinations

This summer, get your adventure on! There’s plenty of great deals to be had if you know where to look. To help you get packing, here’s a list of this summer’s best budget travel destinations, courtesy of the travel writers of forbes.com.

San Antonio, Texas

From strolling along the San Antonio River Walk to chasing thrills at Six Flags Fiesta Texas, there’s plenty of fun and food to be had. Whether you’re craving Tex-Mex or authentic Mexican food, San Antonio has it. Also visit San Fernando Cathedral, which hosts nightly light shows at no cost. If you find yourself visiting San Antonio during the weekend, be sure to wander through the farmer’s market at the Pearl Brewery.

Puebla, Mexico

Puebla is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it’s easy to see why. Architecture lovers could spend days exploring the historical center and marveling at what seems like an endless number of churches.

Despite this being Mexico’s fourth largest city, you’ll hardly see any other tourists. It’s one of those cities where you can just soak in the tranquil atmosphere. The region is known for its mole sauce, so be sure to sample when visiting.

Hawaii

Flights to Hawaii from the mainland are generally pretty cheap, especially in the past few years. Although it isn’t the most inexpensive when you arrive, it’s well worth it because you get the South Pacific feel with the comforts of the United States—and a shorter plane flight. Check out Maui, and the little visited island of Lanai. For golf lovers, the Four Seasons at Lanai is recommended.

St. Helena

Saint Helena is a volcanic tropical island in the South Atlantic Ocean, 2,500 miles east of Rio de Janeiro. While a trek to get there in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean, it’s a relatively cheap destination once you arrive.

This off-the-beaten path location offers great hiking, fascinating English mixed with island culture, good food and even the world’s most remote golf course. The airport alone makes it worth a visit as they basically shaved down a mountain to make it possible. St. Helena is probably not on your short list but it should be on your bucket list.

Province of Laguna, the Philippines

The Philippines is already popular because of its white sand beaches in Palawan, Cebu or Boracay; the surfing in Siargao, the mountains in the north but Laguna Province is less well known.

If you have a few days stopover in Manila, make sure to visit the Province of Laguna. It has hot springs as well as San Pablo City, also known as the City of Seven Lakes. Most of these attractions are easily accessed by car rental or taking the local public transportation called tricycle, which costs less than $10.

Agra, India

Home to the Taj Mahal, Agra is on many traveler’s lists. And although it costs around $43 to enter, the surrounding area is relatively inexpensive. It is definitely a well-known destination, so if you want your Taj Mahal shot, be sure to go in the morning. Considered to be the jewel of Islamic art in India, it was built by Emperor Shah Jahan as a mausoleum for his wife—possibly one of the most extravagant declarations of love in history.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

There is no city in the world as intoxicating as Buenos Aires. The streets are lined with grand European-style architecture, cozy cafés and endless parks. The staples of life in this budget-friendly city are steak, wine, empanadas and ice cream. Three cheers for the Southern Hemisphere.

South Africa

Prepare to be blown away by the beauty of South Africa. It’s a very diverse place in terms of its nature, people and activities.  One day, you may be hiking up a mountain and the next, diving with sharks in the Atlantic Ocean. You’ll be surprised by the extreme low cost of Uber and transport there. The food is also fairly inexpensive, as well as delicious.

Zanzibar

Zanzibaris are so much fun and friendly. While there are expensive resorts there, you can still find some inexpensive bed and breakfasts and hostels in Stone Town that allow you to be right next to the Indian Ocean, where all the excitement, and restaurants are.

Armenia

Set in the Caucasus Mountains, Armenia is a hidden gem that’s still untouched by mass tourism, and yet has so much to offer: rich history, wineries, impressive landscapes, ancient monasteries and breathtaking mountains as far as your eyes can see. The capital, Yerevan, is a lively city with wide avenues, delicious restaurants, museums and street markets selling local handicrafts.

Outside of the capital is picturesque nature. You can pay a visit to the oldest winery in the world in Areni, stop by stunning monasteries, or check out the oldest cathedral in the world in Etchmiadzin.

Serbia

Serbia is one of Europe’s best-kept secrets. It’s one of those places that has such an amazing energy that it leaves you wanting more. In the bustling city of Belgrade, there’s something happening every hour of every day. The streets are filled with amazing restaurants, cute cafés, bars and clubs. The friendly locals are always out and about. You will find people of all ages enjoying the outdoor cafés and drinking rakija (the national drink of Serbia). The restaurants have a great mix of both local and international dishes and are great for trying new dishes. Try the komplet lepinja, cevapi and karađorđeva šnicla. The nightlife in Serbia is one of a kind. There are floating bars and clubs along the Danube riverbank. Parties go on till the early morning hours.

Transylvania, Romania

Home to myths and some of the world’s most hospitable locals, Transylvania is a budget traveler’s dream destination. The stunning Carpathian Mountains offer the perfect backdrop to one of Europe’s often overlooked regions.

Guests can experience Romania’s roots free of the mass commercialization, and the high prices, that we see in more popular European destinations. From sampling local dishes like ciorbă, mici and palinka, to skiing in Sinaia, you’ll have a wide range of budget-friendly activities to keep you entertained.

George Town, Penang, Malaysia

A mixture of cultures, cuisines and architecture come together to create an atmosphere that on paper shouldn’t work but somehow does. Chinese, Indian, Malay and British influences can be seen at every turn you make in this Penang Island UNESCO World Heritage Site. What makes George Town stand out are the quarters that make up the city, each one boasting a distinct community and history, all linked together by the beautiful street art found throughout. With a diverse population, beautiful culture and amazing food, George Town is a perfect addition to anyone’s travel bucket list.

Moscow, Russia

Moscow, like the rest of Russia, has a stereotype of being a bitterly cold destination. That is true during the winter months, however during the summer, you can expect steady sunshine and clear skies so put on your shades, grab a bliny and wander around the Red Square with ease.

Taipei, Taiwan

The capital of Taiwan is growing in popularity in East Asia but often goes unnoticed by the masses. In comparison to Hong Kong or Tokyo, think of Taipei as the quieter kid on the block. With some of the best food markets in all of Asia, buzzing shopping districts like Xiamen and the stunning nearby Yangminshan National Park, Taipei offers something for everyone. Pro tip: Taipei won’t break the bank but don’t expect it to be as cheap as Vietnam.

No matter where you decide to vacation this summer, whether within the US or abroad, let Hoyt Livery get your whole family to the airport and back home. With family-sized luxury vans with room for everyone’s luggage, Hoyt Livery can get you there safely, comfortably and in style.

Source: forbes.com

LaGuardia Terminal B Update

Back in December, the first phase of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $8 billion overhaul of LaGuardia Airport (LGA) opened to the public.

The remodeled Eastern Concourse of LaGuardia’s Terminal B is a $4 billion construction project intended to help upgrade an airport that Joe Biden likened to being in “some third world country” in 2014.

The first phase of improvements included a new concourse and 11 gates at Terminal B. Here’s an overview of what the finished LGA will look like, courtesy of 6sqft.com.

Visible improvements already include “wayfinders” embedded in the floor—dark-shaded tile down the middle to guide passengers to a gate, with white accents emanating from the shops. Once a passenger reaches a gate, the subtly patterned tile gives way to a carpet with no pattern.

Along the way are mostly upscale restaurants and stores, including outposts of Shake Shack; McNally Jackson (the Manhattan Bookstore); La Chula Taquería (the Mexican-food eatery with roots in Harlem); Irving Farm Coffee Roasters (which was founded as a cafe near Gramercy Park); FAO Schwarz; MAC cosmetics; and private pods for massage, manicures/pedicures and treatments for acne and wrinkles.

Upon completion …

Terminal B will measure over 1.3 million square feet, including the newly opened Eastern Concourse, which measures 250,000 square feet and has 18 gates. The terminal’s parking garage opened in February and includes 3,100 parking spots, all equipped with a system to provide a real-time view of available spaces.

Two pedestrian bridges will be constructed across active plane taxi lanes, connecting the main departures and arrivals hall that will open in 2020 with the two island concourses. According to the company, Skanska USA, who is leading the design and construction, the bridges will offer travelers views of the Manhattan skyline as they head to and from their gates.

Terminal B, serving Air Canada, American Airlines, Southwest and United, and Terminal C, serving Delta, will be able to hold 30 million passengers per year after the redevelopment wraps up.

By the numbers

The LGA project is part of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s $8 billion rehab of the airport, which will extend to other terminals as well. Eventually, the new buildings will span 2.7 million square feet, 72 new gates and six new concourses. In December 2018, 243,000 square feet opened.

The massive project includes 40,000 tons of steel—10,000 individual steel pieces, measuring 12,000 tons and will weigh more than the Eiffel Tower, according to Skanska USA. The upgraded terminal has 55-foot ceilings, new floor-to-ceiling windows, fig trees, porcelain-tiled floors, park-like seating areas, wonderful eateries, state-of-the-art bathrooms and a children’s playground.

In an effort to stay green, Skanska recycled 21,604 tons of concrete from the demolition of the original structure with about five million pounds reused at the job site.

United will join in the middle of 2019, and the remodeled area for ticketing, check-in, security and baggage claim — known as the “headhouse” — is set to open in 2020, according to Gateway. Currently under construction is Delta’s Terminal C, and has an expected opening in 2021. And an environmental review is underway for the proposed AirTrain, which will provide a reliable trip to LaGuardia from Midtown Manhattan in 30 minutes.

Click here to visit the website and see more photos.

Source: 6sqft.com

What to Know About the Shutdown and Air Travel

After the longest government shutdown in American history has seemingly ended, travelers should keep in mind that the shutdown was actually placed on a three-week hiatus.

Here’s an overview of how the shutdown affected airports and air travel, and what to do if it returns, courtesy of the vox.com.

How does the shutdown affect agents?

TSA agents make up 51,000 of the 420,000 federal employees who are considered “essential” staff. During a government shutdown, they do not receive their paychecks. According to WNYC, the TSA is one of the lowest-paying federal agencies; the typical starting salary of an agent is $17,000 (other estimates say it’s closer to $25,000).  While they were to be paid for their work eventually, they did not know when, and this likely negatively impacted morale, on-the-job performance, and attendance.

Was airport security compromised?

On January 14, one out of every 13 airport screeners (employees who screen passengers and luggage at security checkpoints) nationwide didn’t come into work. According to CNN’s sources, the screeners likely did fewer random pat-downs, bag inspections, and other screenings. That created a potential security vulnerability — an ironic, if potentially dangerous, situation given that the root cause of the shutdown is a fight over border security.

A scary thought: According to TSA, in 2017, 3,957 firearms were recovered in carry-on bags at American airports and 84 percent of them were loaded.

Although TSA spokesperson Michael Bilello tweeted during the shutdown, “security standards remain uncompromised at our nation’s airports,” the president of the national TSA employee union Hydrick Thomas told CNN that the number of TSA callouts “will definitely affect the flying public who we [are] sworn to protect.”

Were airport lines longer?

Although it depends on the airport, many major hubs reported longer lines. The TSA stated, “While national average wait times are within normal TSA times of 30 minutes for standard lanes, some airports experienced longer than usual wait times.”

Some airports had to closed terminals due to lack of staffing and filtered more travelers through fewer checkpoints. The George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston closed a checkpoint in Terminal B due to low staffing, funneling those passengers to terminals C and E. Miami International Airport closed checkpoints in Terminal G and diverted passengers to other terminals, also citing low staffing.

At New York’s LaGuardia Airport, employees and flyers were confronted with “endless lines,” ABC News reported. At Terminal C, which houses Delta, passengers waited 90 minutes in security lines. A similar situation arose at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, which was already dealing with a TSA agent shortage.

Were flights getting delayed or canceled?

Flight delays may have been caused by winter storms, but in the end, the government shutdown led to widespread delays or cancellations. Southwest Airlines was supposed to start flying to Hawaii early this year, but the shutdown kept the company from pursuing that route. Hours-long delays and finally cancellations at LaGuardia were cited as major reasons why the government put the shut down on hiatus.

Air traffic controllers are also essential employees, and therefore have also been working without paychecks. Air traffic control, understaffed before the shutdown began, reached the point at which the government needed to reduce flight volumes, which caused carriers to cancel some flights. In the future, if the government shutdown occurs again, an extended shutdown could lead to entire airports cancelling flights, with only a “subset of the airports” running, said Bruce McIndoe, founder and president of global travel risk management firm WorldAware, formerly iJet.

The shutdown also stalled modernization efforts of the air traffic control system, he said. “The modernization efforts the FAA has put forward require constant and ongoing work, and this really takes those efforts off course,” said Larry Willis, president of the Transportation Trades Department, AFL-CIO. “When you put critical modernization efforts on the shelf for three weeks, it’s going to take months to ramp those efforts back up.”

What travelers can do

While there’s not much travel buyers can do beyond pressuring their elected officials to not allow another shutdown, they should allow more time to get through airports in case of disruptions, McIndoe said. Should it reach the point of flight cancellations, corporate travelers might look to defer trips when possible. However, he said putting travelers in cars instead of planes is not ideal, given the substantially higher risk of accidents in car travel versus air travel.

Source: vox.com

Female Safety When Traveling for Business

When women travel for business, whether to a local conference or international destination, there are unique issues and concerns they have to face, and often alone, on the road.

Here are some business travel tips for women to help you stay safe on the road, courtesy of Entrepreneur.com.

Female travelers increasing—and so are safety concerns

This year, the Upside Travel Company reported that nearly 50 percent of all business travel bookings are for women, and that number is steadily rising. With this comes the growing awareness that women face more travel safety risks compared to their male counterparts. According to 2018 survey research by Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) and AIG Travel Inc., a disturbing 83 percent of women polled said they’ve experienced a safety issue or concern in the last year while traveling for work, yet only 53 percent of women always or sometimes report these experiences to their travel managers. The research also found that only 18 percent of corporate travel safety policies specifically address female safety needs.

Here are some travel safety basics women should keep in mind on the road.

Know your business trip insurance.

If you’re an employee, ask your employer for its travel insurance program documentation so you know what’s covered for you. If you’re self-employed, research your options for purchasing travel insurance. Sites with updated 2018 recommendations include Consumers Advocate or Travel Insurance Review. Also, be sure to save an electronic version and print a hard copy of the travel insurance benefits, then share your insurance details with a trusted family member.

Stay in a good hotel in a safe area.

When selecting a hotel, choose a well-known and reputable one. Interestingly, some hotels offer women-only floors, so don’t hesitate to ask before you book if that’s a personal preference. MaidenVoyage.com also offers a list of certified female-friendly hotels worldwide. Also, consider booking your flight arrivals for daylight hours so you avoid arriving after dark, especially for international arrivals.

When traveling internationally.

It’s recommended you visit the U.S. Department of State where you’ll find information for every country in the world including visa requirements, safety and security conditions, health and medical considerations, local laws and areas to avoid. It’s also wise to know the location of the closest U.S. embassy or consulate at your destination. Check the option to enroll your trip so you can receive safety alerts and your embassy can contact you in the event of an emergency.

Make copies of your passport and ID.

Whether traveling domestic or international, always make copies of your passport ID page to make it easier to file a report and get a replacement if your passport is lost or stolen. Leave one copy with a trusted contact at home and carry one with you. Do the same with your trip itinerary in case your smartphone is lost or stolen.

Leverage technology and apps.

Lastly, take advantage of the latest technology to stay in the know. Apps like TripIt show neighborhood-specific safety scores, including relevant categories like: women’s safety, physical harm, health and medical, theft and more.

Pack smart and don’t stand out.

It’s always wise to pack modest clothing and avoid packing or wearing expensive jewelry, bags, shoes or other accessories. You don’t want to stand out as having valuables that someone would want to steal. It’s also smart to pack shoes designed for comfort and mobility, so you can move quickly if needed.

Also, consider packing a decoy wallet with a small amount of cash and expired credit cards. If someone rifles through your bag, that’s the one they’ll take. Then wear a hidden money belt with your “real” wallet contents.

Other important items to pack include: chargers for your digital devices, a travel plug adapter if you’re traveling internationally, at least a two-week supply of any medication you’re taking and any special medical ID bracelet or tags.

Be strategic when checking in.

When checking in to your hotel, ask the clerk to write your room number on a piece of paper or on the key sleeve, rather than saying it out loud. Also request a room near the stairs or elevator so you don’t have to walk through empty corridors at night, and don’t stay in a room on the first floor or near exit stairways since they are more accessible and prone to theft.

When you arrive to your room, check to make sure it has a peephole, deadbolt and working locks on the windows, adjoining door and balcony door. If there are any issues, request a new room that’s secure.

If there’s ever a knock on your room door, call reception to confirm the identity of anyone there, and if the door to your room is ever open or unlocked when you return, don’t enter. Go back to the front desk and inform them of the security issue.

Play it safe on the street.

If you need to use your mobile phone in public, try to stand still with your back to a wall or window, since walking and talking will limit your awareness and make you an easier target. Also, keep your head up while walking, stand/walk confidently, never look lost, and don’t walk alone or visit an ATM at night.

As always, follow your intuition: if you feel a bad vibe from somewhere or someone, listen to your gut instinct and remove yourself from the situation.

Be smart with your smartphone.

Travel with clean digital devices that have limited banking information, sensitive data, personal photographs or compromising information, and always be aware of potential avenues for cyberattacks, such as using the free Wi-Fi in public locations.

Also avoid posting information about upcoming travel dates, and don’t publish your whereabouts in real-time online. You can share details after you are safely back home.

Source: Entrepreneur.com

Strategies for the Best Seats on a Plane

If you’ve ever flown, you know that a good seat can mean the difference between an enjoyable and painful flight. But what seat should you reserve? Aisle or window? Front, middle, or rear?

Every traveler is different. Some of us fall asleep before the plane takes off, and others travel with children, or struggle with long legs. Or you might easily get airsick or have anxiety about flying. So, there isn’t one best seat for everyone.

Here’s a summary list of the best seats on a plane by category:

Best seat for a smooth ride: A seat over the wing of the aircraft

Turbulence is virtually unavoidable while flying, but choosing a seat near the middle of the plane, over the wing, will make a bumpy ride less noticeable. The further away you sit from the wings, the more noticeable turbulence will be. If you picture the airplane’s movements in response to turbulence as pivoting around a central spot (the center of gravity), you can imagine folks near the nose or tail will move up and down more than if you’re seated near to the pivot point.

If you have a choice between multiple aircraft on the same route, picking a bigger plane usually means a smoother ride. Heavier airplanes typically react less to bumpy air. Most airline sites display the aircraft type next to the fare prices.

Best seat for sleepers: A window seat near the front

If you like to sleep away a plane ride, pick a window seat near the front, and preferably on the left side of the plane. Being on the window means people in your row don’t need to wake you up to go to the restroom, and the flight attendant doesn’t need to reach over you to give refreshments to the other people in your row. Plus, leaning against the window is just more comfortable and you can control the lighting (lower the shade).

The front of the plane is less noisy, and the left side windows tend to be off-center due to the front door’s positioning. This allows you to rest your head against the column between windows, for a more comfortable rest.

Best seat for most legroom: An aisle seat in the 2nd exit row

If you’re a tall person, you want to try to get yourself a seat in the emergency exit row, preferably an aisle seat. Many planes have two over-wing exit rows, and the second row is best because the first exit row will not be able to recline in front of you.

Best seat for fastest plane exit: Any seat close to the front of the plane—on the left side for dual aisle aircraft

You might have already spent hours on the flight, but sometimes the last 15 minutes while you wait to get off the plane can feel like the longest of it all.

Selecting a seat near the front of the aircraft will mean the quickest time to deplane. If you are flying on a plane with two aisles, choose a seat in the front with access to the left-hand aisle. The plane’s boarding door is always on the left, so that aisle tends to move quicker than the right-side aisle.

Best seat for the safety conscious: A seat towards the back of the plane

Popular Mechanics recently conducted a study that examined every commercial jet crash in the United States, since 1971, that had both fatalities and survivors. The study concluded that where you sit in a plane actually significantly impacts your chance of survival in the extremely unlikely event of a plane crash.

The study found that in US airline crashes, passengers who sat in the back of the plane had a 69 percent chance of survival, compared to 56 percent chance for those who sat over the wing, and 49 percent for those in the (front 1/4 of the plane). The study concluded that the passengers in the back of the plane were the safest.

Best seat for traveling with kids: A bulkhead seat with the kids by the window

If you travel with kids, you know the dread of getting stuck in the center seat, with kids squirming and fussing. Then there are the last second emergencies to the bathroom. It can be embarrassing, but the right seat can make things easier.

When traveling with kids, try to get a bulkhead row. These rows offer extra space in front, so kids can stand up to get the occasional wiggles out (when the seatbelt light is off, of course). This also means kids aren’t bothering the row in front of you, which cuts down the number of glaring looks you get.

The bulkhead seats are also often near bathrooms, making last-second bathroom emergencies a bit easier.

Once you have a bulkhead row, it is best to position kids against the window or middle seat (when traveling with two kids), avoiding the aisle seat (or reserving it for yourself). The window is a healthy distraction for kids, and more importantly it avoids them from being hit by beverage carts, passengers rushing to the bathroom, or tumbling into the aisle.

Best seat for A/C power – varies based on airline

You will want to look into each airline for how they offer A/C power on their planes if you are planning on using it. Some airlines, like Alaska Airlines, offer an individual power outlet and USB plug for each seat. Other airlines like United Airlines have one shared A/C outlet per row.

For airlines with shared outlets, you will want to focus in on the middle seat, since the shared power outlet is usually under this seat, against the chair leg closest to the aisle. If you or a travel companion have the middle seat, then using this outlet becomes a lot less awkward.

Best seat for larger passengers – select an aisle seat

Selecting an aisle seat is your best bet as it allows you to lean out into the aisle so you aren’t compressing the person next to you. What most people don’t realize is that the aisle armrests lift up, making for a much more comfortable ride. When you first sit down, feel for a small button or lever, located under the armrest, almost against the seatback. Holding this down will unlock the armrest, allowing you to lift it all the way up and giving you a lot more space.

Every passenger is going to have certain flying and travel styles that will make different seats a better choice for them. Reserving the best airline seat ahead of time can take a lot of stress out of traveling.

Source: millionmilesecrets.com

Traveling by Air with Holiday Foods

We celebrate Thanksgiving with food, and lots of it! Driving with prepared Thanksgiving side dishes or leftovers is one thing, taking food items on a flight is entirely different. Thankfully, the TSA offers travel tips for flying with food.

Here are some best practices for traveling with food, courtesy of lohud.com.

More than 25 million people are expected to travel over Thanksgiving weekend with the Sunday after the holiday the busiest travel day, nearly a seven percent increase compared to last year. And more people than you may realize are flying with food, from side dishes like yam and stuffing, to fully cooked turkeys. In fact, at least four out of five people travel with some kind of holiday food, according to Lisa Farbstein, a spokesperson for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) which held an information session at Westchester County Airport on the do’s-and-don’ts of traveling by air with holiday foods.

The Westchester County Airport which usually sees 2,200 to 2,500 passengers a day, will see approximately 3,000, an increase of more than 20 percent, said Farbstein. That is why she stresses getting to the airport two hours early. With all those extra bags — and food — the TSA has a lot to screen.

Pies and pastries are the number one item the TSA sees and screens during the holiday, followed by meats. TSA also sees a lot of wine bottles, canned cranberry, cornbread stuffing mix, sweet potatoes and those crunchy onions that go on top of bean casseroles. Tara Gavin, a TSA agent at Westchester County Airport, said she especially sees packed food from college students travelling back to school after the holiday.

How to Pack Food for Flight

So, when it comes to food, what goes in your carry-on and what goes in your checked baggage? “If you can spill it, spray it, spread it, pump it or pour it,” it’s technically a liquid and goes in your checked bag, said Farbstein.

Both she and Gavin suggest tightly packing what you can and wrapping it in a plastic bag (or two) for your checked baggage, to avoid leakage. After all, who wants a gravy spill on a new shirt, especially before the holiday? “I’ve even seen duct tape used,” said Farbstein. Similarly, you should pack carry-on food items in spill-proof containers and wrap them as best as you can, again using plastic bags within your bag.

Gavin said TSA agents won’t open your packaged food but will instead use a wand around it for testing. It’s best to put those items in a bin separate from the rest of your luggage when going through the security check. Note that even if you have TSA-Pre approval, you’ll have to go through the process.

Seeing all those homemade or store-bought goodies may make TSA employees hungry, said Gavin. “We may want to eat it,” she said, “But we won’t.”

If you have any questions regarding traveling with food over the holidays, go to @AskTSA on twitter. You can also reach the TSA Contact Center at 866-289-9673.

Source: lohud.com

Holiday Flying Survival Tips

If you’re flying this holiday season, here’s some advice from expert travelers on how to fly smart and stay sane.

  • Book your flight and hotel now. Use websites such as Orbitz.com, Kayak.com, WhichBudget.com and LastMinute.com, FareCompare.com, Priceline.com and Yapta.com to search and compare the best airfares and times.
  • Book your flight early in the morning, so if a flight is delayed or cancelled, you’ll have a better chance of getting on another flight later that day.
  • Have your passport ready. If you’re traveling out of the country, make sure you understand the country’s passport requirements and have paperwork in order.
  • Avoid the busiest commuter times: Monday mornings, Friday evenings and Sundays. Instead, fly on the least crowded days: Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.
  • Don’t fly peak holiday travel days. During peak holiday travel season, the day before and after Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s are usually the busiest days to travel. Instead, fly on the day of a holiday. If you have to travel on a high-traffic day, fly early in the morning for fewer delays—afternoon flights tend to incur more delays and cancellations. Or, consider the red eye and fly overnight, between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.
  • Avoid connecting flights if possible. The lower fare you may receive isn’t worth the extra work and stress if you miss the connecting flight. If you can afford it, book a flight with zero connections. If not, book them with plenty of time between flights as  weather, air traffic, crew connections and other factors affect airline schedules.
  • Pack carry-on only – it will save you the baggage fee and get you on the plane and out of the airport faster. If you’re going to have to check luggage, pay your baggage fee ahead of time online, it’s usually a bit cheaper. Also weigh your baggage ahead of time and make sure it is less than 50 pounds to avoid an additional fee.
  • Ship gifts ahead of time. Once your flight is booked, head to the post office and mail gifts to your destination ahead of time. You’ll have to pay shipping, of course, but you’ll save on extra baggage fees and negotiating that giant dinosaur through security check. An easier option, shop online for gifts and have them delivered to your destination. Gift-wrapping is available through many websites.
  • Bring your own snacks. You don’t want to get hungry on the road, so pack your favorite snacks in your carry on, so if you get hungry, you’re not at the mercy of the airline’s snack schedule. Also bring wet naps and hand sanitizer to clean your seat and tray table, as airplanes and airports are full of germs.
  • Pack some books and magazines and listen to your favorite music on your iPod or smartphone—they help make the time pass quicker. Remember, you can’t bring water through the security check, so buy a bottle once you get to your flight’s gate.
  • Print your boarding pass ahead of time. The night before or day of the flight, print out your boarding pass. Make sure your seat assignment is indicated on the airline’s check-in page.
  • Get to the airport as early as possible—at least two hours ahead of your boarding time (not flight time), if not more. If you don’t plan on printing out your boarding pass ahead of time, take advantage of the boarding pass kiosks at most check-in gates. They will save you time spent in line, and most gate employees are happy to help you get your pass. Have the credit card on hand with a name that matches the name on the reservation.
  • Know what to expect at the gate. To get through the gate as efficiently as possible, have your driver’s license and boarding pass in hand, remove metal jewelry, loose change, shoes, belt, jacket, cell phone and place them in the plastic bins, and open and remove your laptop. Remember to remain patient and polite—you don’t want to upset a TSA agent. Also, bottled water is not allowed through security, so wait to get to the gate to buy water, coffee and other snacks.
  • Eat well and stay rested. One of the keys to reducing stress and staying healthy on the road is to take good care of yourself. The holidays are a minefield of sugary junk foods and alcohol, so try and balance it out with lots of fruits, vegetables and water. Be prepared and pack healthy snacks to bring on your drive or flight. Bananas, apples and healthy snack bars are good travel options. Also drink plenty of water and get enough sleep—two key factors in keeping your immune system strong and staying healthy. Turn off your phone and computer close to bed time, and start “powering down” from your long days.
  • Don’t forget that Hoyt Livery now makes booking all your ground transportation easy. From home to the airport, to your destination city, we can arrange it all in over 450 cities in the US and Canada. Safe travels and enjoy your holidays!

Expert Tips for Traveling Abroad

If you plan on flying out of the country, these industry expert tips will teach you what to do in advance, help you reduce stress and stay safe when traveling abroad, courtesy of travelzoo.com.

Your Health and Safety

Check in with your doctor. If you’re on prescription or other regular medication, make sure you have enough to last your trip and even consider packing extra. Check in with your primary care doctor to make sure you’ve renewed all essential prescriptions. Also, ask your medical insurance provider if your policy applies overseas for emergencies. If it doesn’t, consider supplemental insurance.

Register with your embassy. It’s a good idea to let your embassy know where you’re traveling, so if there’s a problem in the country, it will make it easier for your government to contact you, your family, and get you to safety.

Plan on Sightseeing

International travel is a rare treat, so take some time in advance to research the city you’re going to on the Internet, or better yet, order a guidebook on the area. Guidebooks usually include interesting facts, annual events, and maps. Also download apps before you travel. Avoid downloading charges from your wireless carrier and get your apps before you leave.

Buy tickets now for places you know you want to visit or see. By buying in advance you’ll be able to skip more lines, and find more deals targeted toward you.

Research events that will be taking place while you’re there. This will help you make sure that you’re not missing the best events going on in the city — fun things like festivals, ceremonies, and natural events. Also be sure to research a few national dishes to try. You don’t want to leave the country without experiencing some of the culinary delights it’s known for.

Luggage and Packing

To check or not to check? If you can swing it, opt for carry-on only — you’ll get on and off the plane faster, and reduce the chance of lost or stolen luggage.

Bring extra copies of your passport. If your passport gets stolen or lost you want to be sure that you can still get back into the country, or be able to prove your citizenship, so bring multiple copies of your passport and leave them in several places when traveling. For extra backup, leave a copy of your passport at home or with someone you trust. Consider making an electronic copy you can store in your email account as well.

Bring snacks. Traveling abroad is fun, but eating in a foreign country can sometimes become a challenge. Bring small snacks for long flights to hold you over until you find that perfect restaurant or food cart.

Cash and Cards

Learn monetary conversion in advance. Make sure you do your math before you travel to get a sense of where the conversion rate is at.

Convert money at a bank or ATM. Once there, the conversion centers in the airport or around the city tend to be huge rip-offs, so go to a bank or ATM in the city you’re visiting. You won’t get charged as many fees and the conversion will be exact.

While at the bank, withdraw some cash; not every place takes credit cards, such as trains or bus stations.

Make sure your credit card will work. European banks have switched almost completely to the more secure chip-and-PIN technology, and fewer businesses abroad are accepting the outdated magnetic-strip cards.

Also let your bank and credit card provider know you’re traveling. Fraud alerts are triggered by unusual transactions, such as spending $1,000 in Germany, for example, so let your bank and card company know you’ll be traveling in advance, so they don’t shut down your card when you’re on the road.

Check the country’s entrance/exit fees. Also note that some countries require travelers to pay a fee to enter or exit the country. These fees are not included in the price of your airline ticket, and can range from $25 to $200.

Get Technical

Bring a phone charger adapter. Different countries have different size electrical outlets and voltages, so if you want to use your favorite hairdryer or charge your phone, make sure you have an adaptor.

To avoid expensive roaming charges, activate your phone’s global capabilities. There’s usually a charge for doing so, but it’s much less than the roaming charges you could incur.

Source: Travelzoo.com

What to Know about the Global Entry Program

If you travel abroad regularly, you may want to consider applying for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Global Entry program, which allows eligible flyers to take expedited lines at the airport when returning to the U.S. Here’s how Global Entry works, courtesy of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Global Entry Program:

What It Is

According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the Global Entry program allows expedited clearance for pre-approved, low-risk travelers upon arrival in the United States. Members enter the U.S. through automatic kiosks at select airports.

At airports, program members proceed to Global Entry kiosks, present their machine-readable passport or U.S. permanent resident card, place their fingerprints on the scanner for fingerprint verification and complete a customs declaration. The kiosk issues the traveler a transaction receipt and directs the traveler to baggage claim and the exit.

While Global Entry’s goal is to speed travelers through the process, members may still be selected for further examination when entering the United States. Any violation of the program’s terms and conditions will result in the appropriate enforcement action and termination of the traveler’s membership privileges.

How to Sign Up

Travelers must be pre-approved for the Global Entry program. All applicants undergo a rigorous background check and in-person interview before enrollment.

To begin, create a Trusted Traveler Programs (TTP) account. Once you log in, complete the application. A $100 non-refundable fee is required with each completed application. American Express members can get a fee credit if they use their card when filling out the application.

Customs will then review your application. This will include a thorough background check involving law enforcement, customs, immigration, agriculture, and terrorist databases as well as biometric fingerprint checks.

Once you’re conditionally approved, your TTP account will instruct you to schedule an interview with a Customs agent at a Global Entry Enrollment Center.

For the Global Entry interview, bring a valid passport and one other form of identification, such as a driver’s license or ID card. If you are a lawful permanent resident, you must present your machine-readable permanent resident card (green card).

Who is Eligible for Global Entry?

Americans as well as citizens from the following 11 nations and territories are eligible for Global Entry: Argentina, Colombia, India, Germany, Mexico, Panama, Singapore, South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom.

Canadian citizens and residents are eligible for Global Entry benefits through membership in their country’s NEXUS program.

If you have been convicted of a crime, or have criminal charges pending or are under investigation, you may not be eligible for Global Entry. If you are denied for the program and you feel the decision was in error, you can provide additional documentation to the CBP Trusted Traveler Ombudsman to request reconsideration.

Just send an email to the CBP Trusted Traveler Ombudsman at: cbpvc@cbp.dhs.gov, “Attention: CBP Ombudsman.”

Global Entry Cards

If approved, you will be issued a radio frequency identification (RFID) Global Entry card. To activate your card, log into your TTP account and click on the “Activate Membership Card” button.

While the cards are accepted at U.S. land and sea ports of entry, Customs can process you without one, as long as you have your ID and other travel information. The cards are only required for expedited entry at the SENTRI and NEXUS lanes coming into the United States.

The cards are not accepted at Global Entry kiosks. Those require passports or green cards.

Can Family Members Travel via Global Entry?

Yes, if those family members have their own Global Entry memberships. Minor children 18 years or younger are required to have parental or legal guardianship permission to sign up for the program.

Each family member that you wish to add to the program must create a TTP Account and fill out a separate application.

Head-of-the-Line Privilege

The head of the line privilege is a perk available only at U.S. airports with Global Entry kiosks. The head-of-the-line privilege is reserved for program members if the kiosks are not working for some reason. The privilege can also be instituted if a member gets referred to a CBP officer, and at the exit points.

For more information on the Global Entry program, visit the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website.