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

New Year’s Resolutions of Successful Business People

The new year is a time to resolve to make improvements, both personally and professionally.

To help inspire you, here are some resolutions of successful business people, along with some smart motivational strategies.

Always keep learning.

One of the smartest things you can do for yourself is to have a “growth mindset” and continue learning new things throughout your lifetime. Learning keeps the mind sharp and benefits the aging brain.

At the end of 2016, About.com CEO Neil Vogel told Business Insider that he resolved to learn guitar because his then 3-year-old son was obsessed with the instrument. Whether or not he succeeded, but it’s the right kind of resolution to make. It’s always easier to teach yourself something that you’re interested in rather than something you only want to learn to advance your career.

To integrate learning the new skill into your routine, think about all the other non-work-related tasks you do every day. Pairing one of these activities with your new hobby will condition you to stick with your goal for the long haul.

Using one everyday task to prompt you to take time to practice your French, for instance, will help you make a habit out of learning something new.

Pay it forward.

When it comes to goals, consider the impact that you have on other people—service to others truly is the best way to feel useful and good about yourself.

People who work toward some purpose beyond themselves are not only 64 percent more satisfied in their career, but some findings indicate they may even live seven years longer than those who don’t.

Consider where you excel and find opportunities to channel that into something altruistic. Try volunteering with a nonprofit, starting a side hustle that meets a community need, or even getting your business involved in giving back to a specific cause. Make this easier by keeping your resolution broad.

You’re just working toward making a positive impact of some kind on the world around you. That’s the approach taken by TED curator Chris Anderson, who describes his resolution in a Fortune article as: “To help turn the tide, just the teensiest little bit, in spreading reason and generosity in place of meanness.”

Finally commit to work-life balance.

Remember when you were a kid and you’d come home from school and the last thing you wanted to do was dive right into homework? As busy as you are now, there’s a reason to embrace a balanced life. Dry Bar founder Alli Webb made this her resolution for 2018, according to Business Insider, saying she wanted to work toward being a great mom, founder, mentor, and wife.

The trick is to develop strict boundaries between work and play. Obviously, you have to work when you’re on the clock, but consider designating time right after work to unwind. If your go-to fun activity is playing board games with your kids, then put your phone on silent and reserve 7 p.m. for just you, the family, and the Monopoly board.

No matter what resolutions you choose, keeping them can be daunting. There are countless ways to improve your life, relationships, and career, and regardless of the goals you set, it’s always possible you won’t follow through with them. Try focusing on one of the areas above, and you may see that this year’s resolution is more manageable than in the past.

Source: inc.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.

TSA Installs New 3-D Security Scanners at JFK, Spots Explosives Better

The Transportation Security Administration has taken steps to improve airport security at John F. Kennedy International Airport with new checkpoint technology.

A new computed tomography (CT) checkpoint scanner provides advanced 3-D imaging and will replace aging X-ray scanners with 3-D scanners, according to a CBSnews.com article.

More effective at detecting bombs

The new 3-D scanners—which are being rolled out at a checkpoint at the American Airlines terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City—use the same technology as CT scans and would change the way bags are scanned at airports across the country.

The brand-new Analogic 3-D CT scanner can see through just about anything in a carry-on bag to spot a potential threat, and the TSA believes that the new scanners will be able to spot explosives more effectively than older machines.

Concerns about certain explosives getting by some older X-ray machines prompted the TSA to ask flyers to take devices larger than a phone out of their bags, and remove food, liquids, and recently, powders. This new scanner technology may bring all that to an end. TSA Administrator David Pekoske commented, “What it’s capable of doing is detecting a wider range of explosives, which is very important, as well as a much lower weight of explosives…they’re just much better at detection, so you really get better security faster.”

And Jose Freig, American Airlines’ head of security, painted a future image for travelers: “Just getting to that point when, in a non-precheck lane, you’re able to keep your liquids, gels, aerosols, and laptops and electronics in your bags. It’s a new era, if you will, and we’re really excited about it.” American Airlines donated eight of the scanners to the TSA, each costing around $300,000, including the one at JFK.

How the new scanner works

The Analogic scanner works like a CT machine in a hospital, seeing through even a cluttered bag and giving screeners the ability to zoom in and rotate the bag for a 360-degree view. The scanner creates a clear image of a bag’s contents by shooting hundreds of images with an X-ray camera. The system can automatically detect explosives, including liquids, and help provide TSA officers with the three-dimensional views of the contents of a carry-on bag. TSA agents have found the 3-D scanners speed up the screening process by reducing the need for secondary bag checks.

Scanner rollout in progress

The TSA has also tested implemented CT scanner checkpoints at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and Logan International Airport in Boston.

The TSA plans to have 15 scanners deployed to airports by the end of the year, and are authorized to buy up to 240 in 2019. They’ll need about 2,000 to cover every airport checkpoint in the country.

Congress is pushing the TSA to get these out there as quickly as possible, but it’ll take years to replace the old X-ray machines at every airport.

“It’s revolutionary,” says TSA Administrator David Pekoske. “We think in perhaps five years or so, the passengers won’t have to take anything out of their carry-on bags.”

Source: CBSnews.com

TSA May Start Screening Snacks

Frequent flyers be aware that the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) may start asking you to take snacks out of your bag so an agent can get a closer look at your goodies, according to Today.com.

Why the increased inspections.

For years, the TSA has been evolving its security screening procedures, including larger electronics such as laptops, liquids, batteries, and shoes. In addition to these items, TSA has now stated that passengers may also be asked to remove other items, such as food and powders from carry-ons because those additional items may clutter bags and obstruct the X-ray scanner from getting a better image.

The Washington Post reported that new, high-tech scanners search for organic compounds in explosives, which sometimes leads to false alarms when scanning food items. As a result, an agent may need to do a hands-on bag check, which makes the screening process slower.

Though not mandatory—there has been no nationwide policy change requiring people to remove food from their carry-ons to get through security—as of yet, more travelers have been noticing the enhanced security measures recently, and many others are claiming they’ve had their snacks inspected before flying. A TSA representative commented, “This isn’t always necessary, but it does help X-ray operators get a clearer view of the contents of the bag and speeds up the screening process.”

Plan ahead to remove food.

That said, as removing foods from your carry-on and placing them in a bin takes additional time, it’s a good idea to plan ahead in preparation. The TSA recommends organizing your bags with the screening process in mind, which they say will help keep lines moving.

Place snacks where they are easy to access in case you need to remove them. One travel blogger noted, “It is much easier to remove one large Ziploc bag where all the snacks are contained than it is to hunt in 14 different pockets for snacks scattered across your luggage.”

It’s important to note that the snack-related security changes won’t affect the type of foods you can carry with you, which include cakes, pies, bread, doughnuts, fruits and vegetables (when flying domestically).

Passengers are permitted to bring outside food on planes, although there are restrictions on fresh produce and meats when traveling to some international destinations, and any food that could be considered a liquid (including spreads like peanut butter) can only be carried on in servings of less than 3.4 ounces.

Once passengers have successfully passed through security, their food is safe from any other inspection.

The TSA website gives information on what is and is not permitted on flights, so it’s always beneficial to plan ahead as much as possible. If you’re not sure if your food item is allowed (lobsters are, by the way, but ice cream is not), search the TSA’s What Can I Bring? list.

Also read these additional flight packing tips:

Get a good carry-on bag.

It’s called a 22″ spinner carry-on bag. It’s the bag you see speedily rolling behind many pilots and flight attendants as they make their way to their next gate. Look for a sturdy, well-designed but lightweight bag with roomy pockets and a wide wheelbase. Spinner carry-ons get their name because of their four wheels. Bags with four wheels are easier to move around than those with just two. Airlines require carry-on bags that are small enough to fit under the seat or in the overhead compartment. Maximum size limits are typically 22″ long x 14″ wide x 9″ tall and 40 pounds. That’s why the 22″ spinner is a popular carry-on size. Most airlines allow you to carry on one small bag plus one personal item, including a laptop, purse or briefcase as long as it doesn’t exceed 36″ total and fits under the seat in front of you.

Understand what you can pack.

While you’re allowed to carry liquids, gels, and aerosols in your carry-on bag, there are restrictions you must be aware of before you pack. According to the TSA website, all liquids, gels, and aerosols must be in 3.4 ounce (100ml) or smaller containers. Larger containers that are half-full or rolled up are not allowed. All liquids, gels, and aerosols must be placed in a single, quart-size, zip-top, clear plastic bag. Gallon size bags or bags that are not zip-top such as fold-over sandwich bags are not allowed. For more details about what you can carry on an airplane, visit TSA.gov/311.

Utilize all the space.

The key to maximizing space in a 22″ spinner carry-on is to roll your clothes into “tubes” instead of folding and stacking them like they do on shelves. Rolling saves space and also helps prevent wrinkles. It’s also easier to select what you want to wear from your bag without unpacking the whole thing. Roll several items together to prevent more wrinkles. Don’t pack them in the carry-on bag as soon as you roll them. Once all the clothes are rolled, stand the carry-on up and pack heavier things such as shoes and books first at the wheel-end of the case so they don’t move around and crush the other items. One flight attendant claims she can pack clothes for 10 days by rolling instead of folding them. Another advocates the use of vacuum space saver bags.

Wear your nice, and harder to pack clothes and shoes on the plane. They won’t wrinkle or take up space in your carry-on. Even if you’re able to pack everything you want in the bag, keep in mind the typical 40 pound weight limit.

Source: Today.com