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FAQ: Air Traveler's Handbook 3/4 [Monthly posting]

( Part1 - Part2 - Part3 - Part4 - MultiPage )
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Archive-name: travel/air/handbook/part3
Last-Modified: Wed Jul 5 18:36:33 1995 by Mark Kantrowitz
Version: 1.21
Size: 95161 bytes, 1885 lines
URL: http://www.cs.cmu.edu/afs/cs/user/mkant/Public/Travel/airfare.html

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
;;; ****************************************************************
;;; Airfare FAQ, Part 3 ********************************************
;;; ****************************************************************
;;; Written by Mark Kantrowitz

This post is a summary of useful information for air travelers. The
focus is on obtaining inexpensive air fares, although other topics are
also covered. It was previously posted under the title "FAQ: How to
Get Cheap Airtickets".

Please mail comments, corrections, additions, suggestions, criticisms
and other information to mkant@cs.cmu.edu.

*** Copyright:

Copyright (c) 1989-94 by Mark Kantrowitz. All rights reserved.

This FAQ may be freely redistributed in its entirety without
modification provided that this copyright notice is not removed.  It
may not be sold for profit or incorporated in commercial documents
(e.g., published for sale on CD-ROM, floppy disks, books, magazines,
or other print form) without the prior written permission of the
copyright holder.  Permission is expressly granted for this document
to be made available for file transfer from installations offering
unrestricted anonymous file transfer on the Internet.

This article is provided AS IS without any express or implied warranty.

*** Topics Covered:

Part 3 (Safety & Comfort, Frequent Flyers):

   Travel Safety, Comfort, and Convenience:
   [3-1]  Travel Advisories/Health Information
   [3-2]  Travel Safety
   [3-3]  Air Quality
   [3-4]  Smoke-Free Flights
   [3-4a] Air Pressure Problems (Colds)
   [3-5]  Special Meals
   [3-6]  Jetlag
   [3-7]  Pregnant Passengers
   [3-8]  Tips for Families Flying with Children
   [3-9]  Tips for Business Travelers
   [3-9b] Best Seats
   [3-10] Exchanging Currency

   Frequent Flyers:
   [3-11] Frequent Flyer Programs
   [3-12] Premier FF Membership
   [3-13] Hotel Frequent Flyer Plans
   [3-14] Credit Card Voucher Offers
   [3-15] Telephone Companies
   [3-16] Discount Coupon Offers 

Search for [#] to get to question number # quickly.


Subject: [3-1] Travel Advisories/Health Information Travel advisories are issued by the US State Department, and include Travel Warnings and Consular Information Sheets for every country. These contain basic information every US citizen should know before traveling to a foreign country. Travel Warnings contain advisories about recent dangerous circumstances affecting travelers to particular countries, such as political and social unrest. Consular information sheets list the location of the US embassy or consulate. They also include unusual immigration practices, health conditions, minor political disturbances, unusual currency and entry regulations, crime and security information, and drug penalties. For more information or personal help, call Citizens Emergency Center: 202-647-5225 Citizens Consular Services: 202-647-3444 Passport Services: 202-647-0518 Visa Services: 202-663-1225 US State Department: 202-647-4000/5225 They can help with citizenship matters, property and legal problems, questions of how to pay taxes and vote, and provide advice on similar issues while you are abroad. The State Department desk officers for particular countries will sometimes be more candid than the published travel warnings. Advisories and related files may also be obtained by anonymous ftp from ftp.stolaf.edu:/pub/travel-advisories/advisories or retrieved by ftpbymail@stolaf.edu. You can also get updates by mail by joining the travel-advisories list. To subscribe, send an email message to travel-advisories-request@stolaf.edu with subscribe in the message body. [This service is provided by Craig D. Rice <cdr@stolaf.edu>, fax 507-646-3549.] You can also call the US Department of Transportation's Free Travel Advisory number at 800-221-0673. For international health information (vaccines, etc.), call the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia, at 404-332-4559. They also have a fax-back service at 404-639-3311. You should also read a tour book on your destination, to familiarize yourself with any notable local laws, currency regulations, and other restrictions. Activities you may take for granted at home (e.g., littering and spitting) may be illegal in the country you're visiting.
Subject: [3-2] Travel Safety Travel by commercial airplane is among the safest ways to travel. But there are still some risks. To improve your chances of surviving in the event of a crash: - Sit near the wings, as the airplane is reinforced there to support the wings. - Wear natural-fiber clothes. Synthetics can melt or ignite, producing smoke and toxic fumes and causing burns. - Wear comfortable shoes or sneakers, without high heels. High heels can snag on the escape slide. - Bring your own infant safety seat. Use one which has been approved for use in motor vehicles AND aircraft. Don't use one which was made before February 26, 1985. - In the event of a crash, do not carry any bags or other items with you. They can cause you to tumble on the slide, leading to broken bones or more serious injuries. There are two things you should do every time you board a plane, since they vary from aircraft to aircraft: - Count the number of seats from you to the nearest exits, both in front of you and behind you. This will let you find the exits even if you've been blinded or the smoke is so thick you can't see the way out. - Locate your personal flotation device. It may be your seat cushion, or it may be an inflatable life vest in a plastic bag stored beneath your seat. Sometimes a life vest is stored in or under your armrest, especially in business or first class. If you personal flotation device is missing or damaged, bring this to the attention of the flight attendant before takeoff. If you do this, you'll save yourself precious seconds in the event of a real emergency. Those seconds can mean the difference between life and death. Fatal accidents involving plane crashes are extremely rare. The chances of your being on such a crash is less than one in a million, according to figures from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). During the past ten years there have been usually only one or two fatal crashes a year, involving no more than 300 deaths. In contrast, in a typical year there are more than 40,000 fatal automobile accidents in the US. Of course, these numbers aren't really comparable. A more accurate comparison would involve the fatal accident rates per passenger mile and per passenger trip. But even so, air transportation is definitely safer than ground transportation. Other safety issues: + Notify the flight attendant of any relevant medical conditions, disabilities, and/or medications. Medication should be transported in the original bottle. Carry a card listing any serious health conditions, the required medication and dosages, and your doctor's home and work telephone numbers. Include a list of allergies and your blood type. + If traveling by car in a foreign country and you are involved in a minor accident, do not leave your car. Instead, go to a well-lit area, such as a shopping mall (or better yet, a police station) and call the police. A common scam is for criminals to follow foreigners from the airport, bump their cars in a remote location, and then rob them. + If you need directions, ask at the airport information desk, a hotel, gas station, bank, or restaurant. Don't ask a stranger on the street. Even if you're lost act as if you know where you're going and continue walking. + Walk only in well-lit areas and avoid slums. + Don't make it obvious that you're a foreigner. When in Rome, do as Romans do. Keep a low profile and try to blend in as much as possible. Dress as they dress and carry your camera inconspicuously. Avoid clothing and jewelry that identifies you as a traveler. Don't engage in loud and boisterous behavior that draws attention. Women should be especially careful to dress apropriately, as clothing restrictions are more stringent for women in many foreign countries. Don't wear provocative clothing. + Carry important documents and valuables in a money belt or neck pouch. Store unneeded valuables in the hotel safe and not in your room. + In Europe, the groups of small children who crowd around you outside airports, hotels, and similar establishments are often pickpockets. Avoid crowds and unexpected situations. + Do not leave valuables unattended on the plane. + If you are having trouble managing your bags, get a baggage cart. A common ploy is for a scam artist to bump into you, sending your bags flying. While this individual is helping you gather your bags (and distracting your attention), a confederate is walking away with one of your bags. Stay alert. It is best to travel light, with a single piece of luggage. + Keep a list of your credit card numbers at home in a safe place, in case your cards are lost or stolen during your trip. You may want to bring a list of the bank phone numbers with you. + Let your family and friends know your itinerary, in case of emergency. They should also know how to get a copy of your medical and dental records, and your will, if necessary. + If carrying a purse, carry it in front of your, close to your body, and run the strap over your head (across your neck). The flap of the purse should be toward your body. Don't let the bag dangle off of your shoulder or elbow, as it is easier to snatch.
Subject: [3-3] Air Quality Newer airplanes recirculate part of the cabin air (up to 50%) to save fuel, in contrast with older planes, which use all fresh air ventilation. There have been reports of passengers and (more frequently) flight attendants complaining about headaches caused by "stale air". There have been two recent studies of cabin air quality that measured carbon dioxide (CO2) levels. Although CO2 is nontoxic at ten times ordinary levels, high CO2 levels are a sign of insufficient fresh air. The normal CO2 level in outdoor air is 300 parts per million (0.03%). The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers has set a "comfort threshold" of 1,000 ppm, above which a building is considered to suffer from stale air. 1. Consumer Reports tested 158 flights on 20 airlines covering 44 different kinds of planes (July 1994). They found that 25% of flights had stale air at some point in the flight, with 13% maintaining inadequate fresh air levels throughout the flight. Boeing 757 planes were among the worst -- as high as 5 times higher than normal outdoor air -- while newer Boeing 747-400 planes had the freshest air. All planes use HEPA (High Efficiency Particle Air) filters to remove dust, bacteria, and viruses, but the Boeing 747-400 and Boeing 777 planes use higher efficiency HEPA filters. See "Breathing on a jet plane", Consumer Reports, August 1994, pages 501-506, for details. 2. Consolidated Safety Services of Virginia conducted a spot check of cabin air quality on 35 flights without notifying the airlines or crew (May 1994). Tests were conducted on Boeing 757 and 727 and McDonnell Douglas DC-9 and MD-80 aircraft. This study found an average CO2 level of 1162 ppm. Note that this study was sponsored by the Air Transport Association (ATA), which represents the airline industry. Nevertheless, the most likely cause of the often-reported symptoms is dry air, not a lack of fresh air (though stale air can contribute to the problem). Cabin air on both newer and older planes has very low humidity levels (15-20% relative humidity), due to very dry air being brought in from outside at high altitude. (The air outside the plane is very cold, and thus has a very low absolute humidity, which translates into a very low humidity level when warmed.) So if you suffer from sore throats, dry eyes, headaches, allergies, itchy nose, or general fatigue when you fly, it might be due to dry air. To alleviate these symptoms, try the following: + If you wear contact lenses, take them out for the flight, especially if it is longer than an hour or two in duration. + Drink lots of liquids, but avoid alcohol and caffeine, which tend to dehydrate you. Drink before and during the flight. Drinking water is good. Drinking a balanced electrolyte solution, such as gatorade/powerade, is better, as the carbohydrates in them let your body absorb them faster than water. + If you suffer from dry skin, bring along a water sprayer and spray yourself on the mist setting. Hand lotion can also help. Some people feel that spraying water on your face or skin can make your skin even drier, if not chapped. Ask your dermatologist for advice. + Don't take a decongestant before the flight, since this dries out your nose. + If the air smells bad or feels stuffy -- a sign of stale air -- complain to the flight attendant. On some planes pilots can control the mix of fresh and recycled air. (The pilots aren't affected by the stale air problem, because the cockpit has a separate ventillation system, as mandated by FAA regulations.) Likewise, if you suffer from asthma, chronic bronchitis, empysema, severe allergies, or impaired immunity, consult your doctor for his or her advice.
Subject: [3-4] Smoke-Free Flights The December 1992 EPA report on the health effects of environmental tobacco smoke (so-called "second-hand smoke"), underscoring the independent assessments in 1986 by the US Surgeon General and the National Research Council, concluded that environmental tobacco smoke is a carcinogen with significant health risks for non-smokers. The lung cancer risks to non-smokers from environmental tobacco smoke are ten times greater than the cancer risks which would normally elicit a reaction from the EPA. It is therefore unthinkable that any airline would continue to condone smoking on any of its flights, and any airline that permits smoking is opening itself up to future lawsuits from non-smoking passengers and crew. Most domestic flights in the US are smoke-free, due to FAA regulations that restrict smoking on short flights (under 6 hours), including virtually all flights in the continental US. (Many flights to Hawaii are also smoke free, even though they last longer than 6 hours.) No US carrier operates completely smoke-free trans-oceanic service, with the exception of "experiments" (e.g., United on some SFO-SYD and JFK-LHR flights). As more passengers complain about smoking to the airlines, more flights will become smoke-free, especially new flights. Under US law, you are entitled to a non-smoking seat on a US carrier, even if it means shrinking the smoking section, provided you checked in on time. FAA rules prohibit smokers from smoking while standing. On flights that permit smoking, the smokers must be seated in the smoking section. Standing in the aisles while smoking is prohibited. This rule applies to all US carriers and to all commercial flights within the USA. Delta announced on August 24, 1994 that it will ban smoking on all 256 of its weekly trans-Atlantic flights starting January 1, 1995. A survey of Delta's trans-Atlantic passengers found that the airline would risk losing up to 7% of them due to the ban. The airline expects to more than make up the difference through new passengers attracted to the airline because of the smoke-free policy. The new policy will also apply to Delta flights within Europe and flights from JFK to Mexico. Delta decided on November 14 to extend the ban to trans-Pacific flights, making the carrier completely smoke-free. Smoking also will not be allowed in Delta's airport clubs. Delta code-share flights on other airlines may, however, continue to permit smoking. Thus Delta is the only US airline to be smoke-free on all its domestic and international routes. Northwest Airlines has banned smoking in all US domestic flights since 1988, and in first-class cabins worldwide since January 1994. Northwest will ban smoking on its non-stop flights from Seattle to Hong Kong starting November 1994. American Airlines has banned smoking on some, but not all flights from New York and Chicago to London, as of October 1, 1994. When United announced that international flights to London (from New York) and the South Pacific (LA-Auckland) will be smoke-free, they got such favorable response that they're now testing smoke-free service on some, but not all, of the flights between London and San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Washington (Dulles). As of October 30, 1994, United flights from San Francisco to Sydney and Hong Kong are also smoke free. Note that code-share flights operated by another airline may permit smoking even when they carry a flight number of a smoke-free airline. Air Canada, Air New Zealand, Canadian Airlines, Cathay Pacific, and China Airlines all participate in code-shares with smoking carriers on some routes. The smoke status of other international carriers is as follows: Air Canada: Flights between Canada and the USA and Europe are all non-smoking. Air France: Non-smoking because of a change in French law. Air New Zealand: All flights to the USA and within New Zealand. All flights to/from Australia and most flights within the South Pacific. Smoking is permitted on pool flights operated by Qantas, of which there are many. Asiana: OZ is smoke-free on all its worldwide routes. OZ flies between SEL and HNL, JFK, SFO, and LAX, with onward connections from SEL to Japan, China, and Southeast Asia. OZ now has the only direct smoke-free flights to Asia from New York and Honolulu, and offers the best option for smoke-free travel from anywhere in the U.S. to Japan (same-airport connections in SEL are much simpler than airport changes in Tokyo or Osaka for flights to other japanese cities) and China. OZ may raise prices as it gets better known, but for now the service is great value for the price. British Airways: Riding the fence; no firm policies as yet. There is a completely non-smoking SFO-LHR nonstop. Complete smoking ban on all flights to Australia and New Zealand. Many European flights are non-smoking (71% of domestic flights, 22% of international flights). No smoking on flights within Europe of duration less than 1.5 hours. Canadian Airlines It'l: All flights to Euope, TPE, HKG, and BKK, and pool flights YVR-HNL-AKL operated by either Canadian Airlines International or Air New Zealand. Smoking is permitted on the YVR-FRA flight, and pressure from Japan forced smoking on flights to Japan (TYO and NGO). (The US seems to export lawyers and tobacco to Japan. :-) Cathay Pacific: Daily nonstop LAX-HKG is smoke-free as is all flights within Asia, and to Australia and New Zealand. New non-smoking flights between FRA and HKG. Smoking is allowed on flights to Europe, the Mideast, and Africa. Cathay Pacific has announced its intention to become a totally smoke-free airline, on all its routes worldwide, by the end of 1995. China Airlines: SFO-TPE and all flights within Asia. Three weekly smoke-free nonstop flights LAX-TPE; smoking is permited on the daily afternoon departure from LAX to TPE, as well as all flights to HNL, NYC, and ANC. They also permit smoking on flights to Europe and Africa. Most inter-Asia and many trans-Pacific flights are smoke-free. Most CRS don't indicate which China Airlines flights are smoke-free, so call the airline to check specific flights. Domestic flights within China (CAAC) are smoke-free. Qantas: Riding the fence; no firm policies as yet. Smoking is banned on some flights to the South Pacific. Singapore Airlines: All SQ flights from SFO and LAX (SFO-HKG-SIN, LAX-TPE-SIN, and LAX-NRT-SIN) are smoke-free since 1-JUL-94. All flights to Europe and North America will be smoke-free as of 30-OCT-94. Only flights originating or terminating in Japan will permit smoking. (Singapore has banned tobacco advertisements since 1970 and does not sell duty-free cigarettes in the airport. Smoking is prohibited in all public buildings and government offices, buses, subways, and taxis.) Virgin Atlantic: All flights worldwide except flights to Tokyo will be smoke-free as of May 1, 1995. KLM-Royal Dutch Airlines, Lufthansa, and Scandinavian Airlines Systems (SAS) have reinstated smoking sections on some international flights after trial bans. The stated reasons were economic. The US House of Representatives Public Works and Transportation aviation subcommittee voted on 31-AUG-94 to ban smoking on all international flights that begin or end in the US. Only the US leg of a multipart flight would be affected. All airlines would be affected, including foreign airlines. Airline flight attendants who work international routes are strongly supporting the measure. The bill passed the full House on 5-OCT-94, and is now under consideration by the Senate. The International Civil Aviation Organization has urged all carriers to ban smoking by July 1, 1996. Toward that goal, the Unites States, Canada, and Australia signed an agreement on 1-NOV-94 banning smoking on all commercial flights between their countries. Only applies to flights operated by US, Canadian, and Australian airlines, and takes effect in 120 days. The New York Times reported on 13-DEC-94 that a Miami judge has ruled that airline flight attendants can sue tobacco companies for smoking-related problems caused by environmental tobacco smoke. This is the first class-action suit concerned with second-hand smoke. The suit is seeking over $1 billion in damages on behalf of the up to 60,000 current and former flight attendants affected by environmental tobacco smoke. If you have a condition which is affected by smoke, such as asthma, allergy to tobacco smoke, etc., be sure to mention this to a flight attendant, especially if you wind up "by accident" in the smoking section.
Subject: [3-4a] Air Pressure Problems (Colds) If you have a cold, traveling by air can be painful due to the fast pressure changes. The following are some suggestions for dealing with the pain: + Swallowing a lot during takeoff and landing (the times of the greatest pressure changes) can sometimes help. Some folks recommend chewing gum. + Drink lots of fluids (water, not caffeine or alcohol) to help prevent dehydration from the dry cabin air. Dehydration can make your cold feel much worse. + Ask the flight attendant for two hot moist towels (e.g., the kind they usually give to first class passengers to freshen up) and two styrofoam cups. Put the towels in the cups, and hold one cup over each ear. You may look funny, but the warm moist air will dramatically decrease the pain very quickly. + You can help equalize ear pressures by pinching your nose and blowing softly. Blow GENTLY, by a series of light puffs. Do this BEFORE your ears start to hurt. Do not hold your nose while sneezing, or you may damage your ears. + Talk to your doctor. There are drugs that he or she may be able to prescribe (e.g., Seldane). Some people report that taking Sudafed or other decongestants helps. A sinus spray may also help. The FAA advises pilots to avoid flying when they have colds, due to the difficulty of equalizing ear pressures.
Subject: [3-5] Special Meals Most of the major airlines will provide alternate meals on meal-flights upon request, if the request is made 24 hours in advance. (The airlines provide each flight's meal inventory to the inflight caterers 24 hours before the flight. Although the caterer can and do adjust the balance of meals up to two hours before flight time, the likelihood of their having your special meal on hand without advance notice is extremely low.) Special meals include: Kosher, Muslim, Hindu, vegetarian (dairy, non-dairy), children, low-fat, low-salt, low-cholesterol, low-calorie, low-carbohydrate, diabetic, fruit, low-gluten, sulfite-free, seafood (cold, hot), soft, and bland. Simply ask for the meal when you make your reservation; there is no extra charge. Things to watch out for: o The Hindu meal is just a non-beef meal. If you are interested in Indian vegetarian meals, make sure you say "Hindu Vegetarian meal" when ordering. o Low-cholesterol may not be the same as low-fat. The low-cholesterol meal will still include some fat. Sometimes the vegetarian meal has less fat than the low-fat meal. Some airlines treat low-cholesterol and low-fat as synonyms. o Your definition of low-fat is probably not the same as the airlines. For example, you might get chicken and margarine instead of beef and butter. Chicken is lower in fat than beef, but... o Vegetarian means different things to different people. Be sure to say whether you mean vegan or ovo-lacto, and be prepared to explain the difference to the travel agent. Some caterers think that a vegetarian meal means a meat meal with the meat removed. So be prepared for disappointments. When traveling overseas, the words carry yet a third interpretation, with vegetarian meaning vegetables, and nothing else. You may wind up with better luck asking for a fruit platter, which are usually very good on most airlines. o Low-gluten meals may include items that are not low-gluten. The Kosher meals are glatt and double-sealed. Wilton Caterers is the largest supplier of these meals, although there are a number of smaller companies as well. If you will be having a special meal, be sure to let the flight attendant know as you enter the plane. Airlines sometime forget to load the meal (especially kosher), and if you let the flight attendant know, they can sometimes catch this. (And feel very guilty if they don't.) If the airline forgets to load your special meal, ask for a meal voucher. Even if you can't eat in the airport restaurants, you can buy nuts, candy or fruit at the gift shops and the airline will reimburse you within reason (e.g., $3-$5). When in doubt, bring your own food. Airplane food tends to be bland for travelers who don't like spices, so your own food will almost always taste better anyway. Airline food is also prepared about 8 hours in advance of the flight, so your own food will be fresher as well. Coordinating and scheduling menus is a nearly impossible task, so even on good days you have a fair chance of being served the same meal twice. If you have dietary restrictions, it is best to bring your own food, in case the airline doesn't load your meal, or you get hungry before the meals are served. Southwest is a "no frills" airline, so don't even bother. The most you'll get from them is peanuts, pretzels, trail mix, or other light snacks. You won't get a full meal from them. But what do you want for some of the cheapest fares in the industry? If you need a non-carbonated non-alcoholic beverage, most airlines include apple juice, orange juice, and tomato juice on their beverage service carts. Tomato juice actually tastes very good, so you might want to try it on your next flight. The trend these days is for airlines to not serve meals on short flights to save money. Continental Airlines doesn't serve meals on US domestic flights of 2.5 hours or less. Southwest Airlines has never served meals on its flights. Most airlines that discontinue meal service on short flights, however, continue to serve beverages and light snacks (roasted peanuts, almonds, and pretzels, depending on the airline). Even though the meal itself only costs a few dollars, when you add in the cost of galley space, storage, preparation, cleanup, and staffing, it can be as high as $20 a flight. Other airlines, like Midway and Continental, offer ``No-Peanuts Fares'' on certain flights. These are usually no-frills, short-haul flights. Some peanuts fares still serve complimentary beverages. The three largest inflight catering services are Dobbs International, Caterair International, and Sky Chefs. Many frequent travelers report that the special meals actually taste better and are often 'lighter' than the regular meals.
Subject: [3-6] Jetlag Jetlag is a phenomenon where one feels tired, fuzzy, and generally fatigued, sometimes accompanied by dull headaches, due to a time zone change. To reset your clock, there are several things you can do: o Stay up 24+ hours and go to sleep at the normal time for your destination. o Do not take a nap at your destination until it is the normal time to go to sleep. o When you wake up in the morning at your destination, go for a half hour walk in the bright morning sunlight. (If there is no sunlight, a bright light can substitute.) o Do not eat right before you go to sleep. Eat a light dinner. o Eat your meals according to the destination time zone. o Do not drink any alcoholic or caffeine-based beverages during your flight. Drinking other liquids is OK -- some people recommend drinking a lot of water. o Don't forget to adjust your watch. Things that affect the sleep-wake cycle: o Sunlight. Properly timed bright light is very helpful. Turn off the lights in your bedroom at bedtime in your destination time zone, and leave the windowshades down in the morning. o Time of Meals o Amount of Sleep o It is easier to shift forward (e.g., waking up at noon home time instead of 7am) than it is to shift backward (e.g., waking up at to sleep at 2am). o Carbohydrates make you sleepy. Protein will keep you awake. Eat heavy carbohydrate meals for two days prior to the trip and a heavy protein one on the day of departure. Some people recommend taking melatonin at dusk or bedtime (for your destination) a day or two before departure, and continue for a day or two after you arrive. Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland at the base of the brain during the night, and can be used to shift the circadian rhythm ("body clock"). Melatonin production is highest in the dark and is suppressed by exposure to sunlight. Melatonin is available from many health food stores (as a "food supplement"), but this may be changing due to action by the FDA. Melatonin is not a tested, FDA-approved drug. It is known to have side effects after extended usage. The drug is still available in Europe and Canada. BE SURE TO CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN BEFORE TAKING MELATONIN OR ANY OTHER DRUG. Most flights are run according to the time of the departure point, not the destination. If you need to sleep according to the light/dark cycle of your destination, bring along eye shades and ear plugs. Note that you can regulate your body's production of melatonin using light, achieving much the same effect as taking the drug. Or you could give in, and just not plan to do anything really important during your first day in the new time schedule. If you can arrange it, just don't switch over to the new time zone, if you're only going to be there for a few days. The Argonee National Laboratory anit-jet-lag diet is available as the file ftp://ftp.cs.cmu.edu/user/mkant/Travel/
Subject: [3-7] Pregnant Passengers If you're pregnant, check with your doctor before traveling by air, especially during the last trimester. There is a small but real risk that the flight could cause you to go into labor and induce a premature birth. Definitely do not fly if the baby has turned. Many airlines won't let a visibly pregnant woman travel without a note from her doctor certifying that it's ok for her to travel and that she's not likely to give birth at 30,000 feet. Airlines may still refuse transportation to you, even with a doctor's certificate, especially if you're in the 8th month. The reasons for refusal vary, but often include the passenger's safety and airline liability. (If you give birth in the air, the airline will have to divert to the closest airport with a nearby hospital, even if there are no complications.) If you do fly, keep your lap belt low around the hips. Also, ask the gate agent if there's an empty seat available in first class. You'll be more comfortable in the wider seats, and if you do happen to give birth, they can close the curtain to give you a little privacy. Flying can also be a miserable experience for someone who is pregnant. Flying differs from other modes of transportation in the sudden acceleration and deceleration, frequent air pressure changes, and significant amounts of vibration. (Though pregnant women should be careful during any traveling, no matter what the means of transportation.)
Subject: [3-8] Tips for Families Flying with Children If you're flying with children, here are some tips for making air travel a more enjoyable experience -- for you, for your child, and for your fellow passengers. When planning your trip: + Tell your children what to expect. Explain security procedures, customs and immigration, take-off and landing, baggage claim and claim checks, and so on. Be sure to tell them how they should behave in each situation and make sure they realize that misbehaving during the trip can have much more serious consequences than misbehaving at home. + Establish firm ground rules for their behavior: Don't talk to strangers, don't ask strangers for help, and don't go anywhere with a stranger. If they get lost, they should know what to do. For example, they should stay in one location -- you will find them, not vice versa. Don't go anywhere alone. Stay where your parents can see you. If you go anywhere, tell your parents where before you go. Don't wander off. Have them memorize your first and last name, the name of the hotel where you are staying, their home address (the town and state if they can't remember the street) and your home telephone number. Cross roads only with an adult and don't play in the street. + Include your children in the planning stages, and let them have some input into the decisions. Don't try to do too much each day, or they'll get cranky. + Keep in mind that young children may refuse to eat any of the local cuisine, so plan accordingly. Tell them in advance about the food and culture of the destination, especially if traveling to a foreign country. If you've been to the country before, tell them stories about your last trip. + If only one parent will be traveling with the children and you'll be crossing borders, bring a notarized letter of permission or power of attorney from other parent. Otherwise you may get stopped at the border under suspicion of kidnapping. + Write your child's name on the inside of all their clothes with indelible cloth marker, or sew in a name label. This will help if they get lost and forget their last name. For the flight, safety pin a card with complete information to their shirt. When making reservations: + Ask for window seats for your children. Children love to watch the world move outside the window. + Ask for contiguous seats so that you can sit together, and make sure you're in the aisle seat, so you can control your children. + Mention that you're flying with children, so your seats won't be in the emergency exit row. Children under age 15 aren't allowed to sit in this row, so if your seats are there, you'll have to be moved when you arrive for the flight, and may not get contiguous seats. + If meals are served on the flight, ask for the special children's meal. + Ask if they have any special services for children. Some airlines provide pins and model airplanes for older children, and sets of puzzles, games and toys for younger children. Some airlines will provide "baby kits" with diapers and other amenities. British Airways now has baby seats, just like the ones in automobiles. All airports have changing rooms, usually in the women's restroom (and many are now including changing facilities in men's bathrooms as well). Some airlines may send special discount travel coupons to your home (e.g., $50 off a children's companion ticket), if you join the kids klub. Joining usually doesn't cost anything, and gets your kids a free magazine every so often. + If traveling with an infant, reserve the bulkhead seats and ask for a baby bed (bassinet). + If your child is traveling under a "lap child" fare, ask for a lap restraint. This is a strap that passes through your seat belt and is used to secure the child, so that if the plane crashes your kid doesn't go flying through the air. + If your child will be traveling alone, tell the airline the name of the adult who will drop them off in addition to the adult who will be meeting them at the destination. Include names, addresses, and phone numbers of each party, and also include your name and phone number. The party picking up your child must carry adequate identification. Provide the party meeting your child with a complete copy of the itinerary. Tell the airline and all parties about any special needs of your child, such as special meals, medication, needing assistance changing planes, etc. The child should carry identification, a small plastic baggy of change for telephone calls, and some cash. Your child should have no more than one small bag of carry-on baggage, and it should include their name and address information written on the inside. You will need to arrive at the airport at least an hour before departure to sign a special form, and you will have to stay at the airport until the flight has departed. Introduce the child to the gate agent, and remind the gate agent that your child is traveling alone. The gate agent will give all your child's travel documents to the flight attendant for safekeeping, and they will give them to the gate agent at the destination, who will give them, in turn, to the party meeting your child. Reiterate the standard warnings about talking to strangers, and remind them to not leave the airport alone or with a stranger. Packing: + Bring your child's favorite toys, reading material, game books, paper & crayons, deck of cards, disposable camera, teddy bear or blanket, and other amusements to keep them quiet on the plane. If you bring along electronic games, be sure to turn the sound off, and make sure they don't use it during takeoff and landing. If you bring a favorite stuffed animal or blanket, be sure it is easily replaceable, in case it gets lost during the trip. A supply of the "prizes" from cereal boxes can be useful as rewards for good behavior. + Bring chewing gum and snacks to help them with air pressure changes during takeoff and landing. For younger children, bring a pacifier or a bottle of juice or milk. The flight attendants can warm your baby's bottle in the galley after they complete the safety dance. Hard candy or a lollipop may also work. + Bring several spare diapers and baby blankets in your carry-on luggage, in addition to the usual emergency change of clothing. + Make sure you bring enough food for the baby. Make an allowance for possible delays when planning what to bring. + For a stoller which qualifies as a carryon, get one of the folding "umbrella" strollers. Airports are a lot easier to navigate with a stroller, rather than carrying a squirming baby. + Bring at least one empty duffel bag in your luggage, in case you buy more stuff than will fit in your luggage. + Don't forget to bring your child's medicines, including cough syrup and medication for other common child ailments. Don't count on being able to find a drug store at your destination. + Bring a full color photograph of your child's face. + Pack the child's luggage in a bag that is small enough for them to manage on their own. Before the flight: + If your children have never flown before, tell them how much fun it is, and try to build up some excitement (e.g., have a countdown calendar). Day of the flight: + For carrying an infant, use a "front pack" or "Snugli" -- it's among the easiest. Be sure to get one with extra padding on the shoulder straps. At six months, you can switch to a baby back pack. + Arrive early. Kids like to explore airports, and juggling kids AND bags will take time. Allow at least an hour in the airport for US domestic flights and two hours for international flights. + Watch your children carefully, to make sure they don't wander off. Never leave your children alone. If you need to make a pit stop in the washroom, bring your children with you. Even the most responsible child should never be left alone to watch luggage or keep your place in line. If you do misplace your children, airport personnel can help you locate lost children. + Parents with children are allowed to board first, so take advantage of this "perk". During the Flight: + Give your baby a bottle or pacifier to suck on during takeoff and landing. This will make the baby swallow, allowing his or her ears to adjust quicker to the pressure changes. Air pressure in the cabin is the equivalent of air pressure at 8000 feet, not ground pressure. + If traveling with multiple children, don't be afraid to ask the flight attendants to watch some of them while you take one to the bathroom. + Most airplanes carry one or two decks of airline insignia playing cards. These get replenished only once a day, so you'll be successful in getting them only if you fly early in the day. The flight attendants may have other items, such as pins and model airplanes to satisfy younger passengers. End of the flight: + Wait until other passengers have gotten off the plane before you start gathering your belongings to deplane. + Don't forget to count noses.
Subject: [3-9] Tips for Business Travelers If you travel frequently on business, here are some hints on making the process more tolerable. Credit Cards, Phone Cards: + Get the limit on your credit card increased (or use a card like the American Express Card, which has no set limit). Between air fares (especially for one-way flights), hotels, taxis, and the like, you can easily run up a hefty bill. Know how much credit you have left on your cards, so that you don't max out the cards while away from home. In addition, consider getting one of the cards that either gives you a cash rebate (Discover), rebates you on purchases of some products (GE card, GM/Ford cards, Citibank Apple card, Caldor card), or affinity cards that give you frequent flyer miles for every dollar spent. Carry two different kinds of cards (e.g., not every place accepts American Express, and some places will accept Mastercard but not Visa, or vice versa). + Get yourself a calling card from one of the major phone companies (AT&T, MCI, Sprint). Make sure it has a toll free access number. + If you travel frequently overseas, you probably should get yourself an American Express (AmEx) card in addition to a Mastercard and Visa. Foreign establishments are more easily impressed by AmEx than in North America, so you're likely to find it accepted in expensive restaurants and boutiques more than you would expect. Visa and Mastercard have, however, made significant inroads, so you can't depend on any one card. Best to bring one of each. Visa is currently accepted in far more places in Europe and Asia than AmEx, but there are still some locations that accept only one or the other. The real benefit of the AmEx card is for convenient currency exchanges. When you want to unload your foreign cash, go to an AmEx office in the foreign country and use the cash to pay your AmEx bill. They'll let you do this even if you don't have a balance. You can also cash up to $1,000 in personal checks every three weeks at an AmEx office ($3,000 with the gold card). + When traveling overseas, replacing a lost or stolen credit card can sometimes be difficult, so bring two or three, and keep them separate to prevent yourself from losing all your cards at the same time. Frequent Flyer, Hotel Promotions/Discounts: + Sign up for ALL the various frequent flyer programs. You never know which airline you'll actually fly on, so it is best to accumulate mileage on all of them. You don't need to carry the cards -- just write down a list of your frequent flyer numbers on an index card, and carry that with you instead. You may want to consider signing up also for the AmEx membership miles program as well, even though it will cost you (Corporate AmEx cardholders $50; regular cardholders free for first year, then $25). Make a list of their partners for car rentals and such -- you'll quickly add up miles on all your cards. Even if you get sick of air travel, you can always give the tickets to family members. Also join all the hotel clubs. (Some people advocate picking one program and sticking with it, to avoid the hassles of juggling many programs.) + Your clients probably have a company discount with a nearby hotel. Such discounts can range from 10% to as much as 50% off. Travel Agencies: + Use a travel agency which provides a 24-hour number to handle problems. Ticketing: + If you fly regularly to the same destination but not over a Saturday night, use the nested/overlapping tickets strategy, where one roundtrip ticket is bought from the destination's perspective, and you use the outgoing ticket of that ticket as your first trip's return and vice versa. This will save your company a lot of money, since both tickets magicly become Saturday night stay tickets. An alternative is to buy two round trip tickets in the same manner, but with the return flights 30 days or so after your first trip. You'll use the outgoing portions of each ticket as before, but the return portions can be used for standby travel or may be changeable with a $35 change fee. If worse comes to worst and you can't use either of the returns, the cost of your flight will still be no more than a single midweek roundtrip. + If you're visiting multiple cities, get your tickets as a circle trip instead of a series of round trips or one-way tickets. A circle trip has the savings benefits of supersaver fares, even if one of the segments isn't over a Saturday night. + If you book two legs of a trip separately, you can avoid long delays in the airport by reducing the connection time. Since you're probably paying for one way tickets anyway, this probably won't affect the cost. Make sure you allow enough time, though, in case your flight is delayed and the other leg is at the other end of a big distributed airport. Note that on some airlines, if you miss a leg, you will not be able to pick up a later flight, even on standby. When you buy the tickets separately, the airline is no longer responsible if a late flight causes you to miss your connection. But if your ticket is refundable, you can cash it in and use it toward a later flight. (If your original ticket was a discount ticket, you'll have to pay the difference in fares between the two flights, if any. If your ticket was full fare, you won't.) + Buy your tickets through an outfit like Price Club, which gives you a 5% rebate (which you pocket, of course). + Since you paid cash for your (non-discount, refundable, changeable) tickets, most carriers will be glad to honor them (even if they are on another airline). So if you miss a flight, find the next flight to your destination on any carrier and talk to the gate agent there. Some airlines, however, will require the original airline to endorse the ticket over to them before they will accept it. + If your flights are concentrated with one airline, get a copy of their flight schedules books. It will come in handy, especially when you miss flights. Luggage and What to Carry: + Wear comfortable clothes for the flight, if you can. If you wear a suit during the flight, it will get wrinkled, and you won't enjoy yourself. It would be better to travel wearing jeans and t-shirt, and then change at your hotel. (If you do decide to not wear a suit, be sure to include a suit in your carry-on luggage, just in case your bags get lost.) Also, wear comfortable shoes or sneakers -- you almost certainly will be doing a lot of walking in the airport. Hush Puppies or Rockports are good. + Carry lots of business cards and keep them handy. You will meet a lot of people on airplanes. + Carry lots of good reading material. It gives you something to do when you do get stuck in an airport (or in a plane that's 37th in line for takeoff). + Buy inexpensive but high quality luggage. Good looks won't last, since even expensive brand-name luggage will get scuffed after a few trips, and the more expensive luggage won't last any longer than the cheap luggage. Why pay a premium when you'll have to replace it anyway? Be sure to get sturdy hard-sided luggage, with reinforced sides. Soft-sided luggage will get crushed or torn. Check the wheels, since flimsy wheels will jam or get broken off. Handles should be securely attached to the bags, or removable, since handles that are left on the bags will be used by the baggage handlers to pull the bags, sometimes with several bags on top. + Buy a luggage carrier or get luggage with built-in wheels. Make sure the wheels are sturdy enough to survive plane travel. + Make sure your luggage is waterproof. If it's raining when you arrive, you luggage will probably sit outside in the rain for a few minutes. Wrap important items in plastic inside the luggage. + Carry a portable electric shaver (if male), soap, and shampoo with you. Not every hotel provides these amenities. + Bring your own travel alarm. Not every hotel provides rooms with an alarm clock, although most will give you a wake-up call upon request. + Carry the most important items with you as carry-ons. If you can travel light (no checked luggage), do so. Don't check anything you can't afford to lose. Carry at least one suit with you onto the plane, even if you have others in your checked luggage. Being forced to wear a t-shirt and jeans to a meeting can ruin even the best of presentations. The "two carry-on" rule is widely ignored -- you can often get away with three carry-on bags, especially if one is a garment bag. Carry a duffel bag in your luggage for expansion space on the return, if you happen to buy any souvenirs. + Pack half the clothes you think you need, and use the hotel's dry cleaners. + If you use a laptop with modem, include a long modular phone cable with you (25 feet) and a modular jack splitter. Both are available at your local Radio Shack or drug store. Also buy a 15 foot extension cord for your power supply. At the Airport: + Check you bags with the valet, and go straight to the gate with your tickets. Standing in line all the time at the check-in counter will rub you the wrong way after the nth time. Try to spend as little time as possible in lines at airports. Do not pick your flights at the airport ticket line; call the 800 number instead. This effectively puts you ahead of everybody in line. If you like to tip skycaps, a buck a bag is the going rate. At the Hotel: + Be nice to hotel and airline staff, and they'll be nice back. Use the hotel's concierge when you need something. They can help you find almost anything, from tickets to a concert, to rental car discounts, to aspirin, to restaurant recommendations, to good directions to your meeting site. Be sure to tip well. Advice and help from the concierge is free, but if they do a special service for you, a tip is expected. On airplanes, wait until the plane is in the air before you ask the flight attendants for anything, since boarding is the busiest time for them. + Ask for a room facing away from the highway and away from the elevator and ice machine, if you want to avoid noise. Expenses: + Take a modest amount of cash with you. Not everybody takes plastic, and you never know when you'll have trouble finding an ATM. + Keep receipts, and log them on your expense report every day. If you don't record expenses right away, you'll forget them. Put the receipts in a separate envelope for each day and label it. Write notes on the receipts about the expenses, if it isn't clear from the receipt itself. When the taxi driver offers you a few extras, take them. You'll probably lose some of your receipts, and having a stash of blank ones can help you make up the loss. Complete your expense report before you return to work, and turn it in right away. That'll get you your reimbursement much sooner. Miscellaneous: + Get maps and use them to figure out where the meetings are and where the closest hotel is. + The food you eat on the road may not be as healthy as the food you normally eat. For example, many airline meals involve meat with high fat, calorie, and cholesterol content. You'll need to be careful to balance your diet, or your health will suffer. Bring your own food with you for the flight; it's healthier and more pleasant. + Arrange for your company to provide a service for remote dialin, so that you can call up and read your email. Either get your mail via one of the national commercial services (Prodigy, Compuserve, Delphi, etc.) or have them subscribe to an outfit like Sprintnet or Telenet which lets you dialup using local numbers in many locations around the world. + In the US, tips are usually 15% of the bill (in states with 5% sales tax, just triple the tax). But check the bill to make sure that a service charge isn't already included, especially in high-end restaurants. In foreign countries the maitre d' should also be tipped if he/she provided some special services. In China, Iceland, and Tahiti, and a few other countries, do not tip -- it's an insult. Ask your travel agent about tipping customs in the country of your destination.
Subject: [3-9b] Best Seats Seat assignment on most airlines starts 3 weeks in advance of the flight (some are 30 days). No seat assignments on Southwest and shuttle flights. Northwest allows advance seat selection 30 days prior to the flight. Continental and Delta allow seat selection 60 days prior to the date of the flight. After midnight is the best time to get the seat assignments you prefer, since unpaid reservations are often cancelled just after midnight. The safest seats in a plane are often over the wings in the exit row (extra reinforcement). Exit row seats also provide more leg room. But you must be physically capable of operating the emergency exit (e.g., capable of lifting 40 to 50 pounds) and read/speak English fluently. Children under age 15 and blind/disabled passengers cannot sit in an exit row. However, you can't reserve these seats, as the airline personnel want to see the people they assign to these rows to verify that they are physically able to open the emergency exit should the occasion arise. If you want a seat in the exit row, get to the airport early on the day of the flight, and request an exit row seat. Note that some of the exit row seats on some aircraft (e.g., MD-80 row 21 window seats) do not recline. Aisle seats are better than window seats because: 1. You can get up and move around without having to climb over other people. On long flights you can get up for a stroll or to go to the bathroom without much of a bother. 2. There is more legroom (window seats aren't as wide, because they must fit into the curve of the plane). 3. You'll get off the plane faster, and have easy access to the overhead compartments. 4. You'll get a better view of the movie. (Depends on the aircraft, of course.) 5. You can chat with the flight attendants. Window seats are better than aisle seats because: 1. You have a view, when it isn't cloudy. But the view may be limited to takeoff and landing, depending on the weather. 2. You've got something to lean against to sleep. 3. People don't elbow you, swing handbags/coats into your face, or spill drinks on you, like they do in aisle seats. 4. Other people don't have to climb over you. Few people like middle seats because they have none of the benefits of the window and aisle seats, and you get squooshed by passengers on both sides (no elbow room). Seats near the center and rear tend to have the greatest engine noise. Seats near the rear are also the most sensitive to turbulence. If you don't like the noise and a bumpy ride, try to get seats as far forward as possible. On international flights, the seats closest to the galleys are usually the quietest (except at meal times) because there is no middle row. If you're going to watch the movie, get a seat 4-5 rows away from the screen, to avoid getting a neck cramp. If you're lucky enough to have a row of seats to yourself, the armrests on many planes swing up, giving you room to sleep. It's also handy to swing them up while getting into and out of the seats, if you're not in the aisle seat.
Subject: [3-10] Exchanging Currency There are two factors involved in exchanging currency abroad, the exchange rate and the commission fee. Don't rely solely on the exchange rate, but factor in the commision as well. Commission fees can vary significantly. So look for the best combination of exchange rate and fee. Since changing exchange rates can affect the value of your money, you'll want to be cautious about the currency you carry. When the dollar is strong, you'll want to carry dollars; when the dollar is weak, you'll want to carry either the currency of the country you are visiting, or a strong currency, such as Swiss francs. When the dollar is in flux, you'll want to carry both, and spend dollars when the dollar is rising and foreign currency when the dollar is dropping. When the dollar is dropping, try to pay for as many expenses as possible in advance. When the dollar is dropping, be careful with using credit cards. If there is a delay in posting the transaction to your account, you'll get a less favorable exchange rate. On the other hand, the exchange rate used by the credit card companies is often better than that for cash or traveler's checks. If you need extra cash, the exchange rate used by ATMs is the preferential commercial/wholesale rate. [Although true in most countries, it is not necessarily the case in Japan, where the government sets the exchange rate.] Even with the interest charges and/or transaction fee, getting a cash advance on your credit card or bank card can sometimes be the cheapest (and most convenient) option, because you don't pay a commission. If your credit card is actually a debit card (such as a Mastercard or Visa secured with a bank account or a brokerage account, or an ATM card from your bank) you won't pay any interest on cash advances, since the cash is withdrawn directly from your account. Thus using an ATM to get cash in the foreign currency is probably one of the best and least expensive methods. On the other hand, when the dollar is rising, you'll want to pay by credit card when possible. ATMs, banks, and traveler's check offices have the best rates. Avoid exchanging money at airports, train stations, hotels, and money changers if at all possible. To avoid the interest charges for cash advances on SOME credit cards, try overpaying your credit card bill before departing. You'll have to read the fine print, however, to determine whether this works. Some banks charge interest on cash advances, whether or not the credit balance covers the charge. Others will charge you a cash advance fee that is equivalent to a high finance charge. If you're lucky, your card will treat a cash advance like a purchase that starts acruing interest immediately. If so, maintaining a credit balance will eliminate the finance charges. There are, however, some caveats about using an ATM. Not all ATMs overseas can be used 24 hours a day; some are restricted to regular banking hours only. As usual, there are daily withdrawal limits. Your bank card or credit card must be on the Plus or Cirrus network for you to be able to use it abroad. Both systems have more than 100,000 ATMs in 40-50 foreign countries. American Express Express Cash is also quite common. There are many other smaller banking networks, which may or may not have machines conveniently accessible at your destination. There are some countries, however, which don't yet have any ATMs, or at least not very many, on the Cirrus or Plus networks. For example, the Netherlands doesn't have any Plus machines, but does have several machines on the American Express Express Cash network. Likewise, there are also countries that don't have any American Express Express Cash machines. Check for availability of machines on your network before you leave on your trip. Before you leave, call your bank to make sure your PIN (personal identification number) will work in ATM machines in the foreign country. In the US and Canada, call 1-800-4CIRRUS to get the address of the nearest ATM on the Cirrus network. In the US, use 1-800-THE-PLUS for locating PLUS ATM machines. With respect to credit cards, bring a Mastercard, a Visa, and an American Express card. Bring at least two cards, since replacing a lost or stolen credit card overseas can be difficult. Don't keep all the cards in the same location, so that you won't lose all of them at the same time. Don't bring your Discover Card -- few establishments outside the US and Canada recognize it. Mastercard is generally usable anywhere you see a Eurocard sign; Eurocard is the European equivalent of Mastercard. Before you leave, take at least $50 worth of foreign currency in small denominations with you, to pay for incidental expenses at the start of your trip (e.g., transportation from the airport to your hotel; taxicabs don't accept credit cards overseas). Airport currency exchange offices have long lines, and often charge a higher exchange rate than banks. Later on you can get foreign currency for restraurants and other establishments that don't accept credit cards. But don't take too much cash with you, because flashing a big wad of bills is the quickest way to lose it. If you buy traveler's checks, be careful when exchanging them for foreign currency. Exchange rates and processing fees can vary considerably, depending on which bank, exchange office, or hotel you use. There is no fee for exchanging American Express traveler's checks at American Express offices. You can also get them at AAA for no fee if you are an AAA member. Traveler's checks are safer than cash, but you'll still want to be careful. Although they can be replaced if lost or stolen, replacing them can take some time. The other drawback to traveler's checks is, of course, the 1-2% commission you pay when you buy them. Only in the US are traveler's checks considered the equivalent of cash; in Europe, you'll probably have to exchange them at a bank, since many establishments won't accept them in payment. Only get traveler's checks if you're concerned about safety, or don't have a credit card, or are traveling to a destination that doesn't have any ATMs. Traveler's checks are also available in foreign currency, including British pounds, Canadian dollars, Dutch guilders, French francs, German marks, Hong Kong dollars, Japanese yen, Spanish pesetas, and Swiss francs. If the dollar is in flux or dropping, you'll want to buy some traveler's checks in the foreign currency or in a strong currency, such as Swiss francs. Many shops and restaurants will accept traveler's checks that are denominated in the native currency, saving you the bother of exchanging them. Bring some dollars with you for the trip home (e.g., drinks and movies on the plane, and cab fare home). If the dollar is very strong, you may be able to get more for your money in open markets as dollars than if you had exchanged them for the local currency. In general, don't make yourself dependent on only one form of money. Bring some cash in both currencies with you, but also bring credit cards, and maybe even some traveler's checks. When returning to your home country, try to avoid bringing coins back with you. Many banks will exchange bills in foreign currency but not coins. Either spend the coins before you leave, or convert them to bills. Note that in some countries (e.g., Japan) you will have to pay the departure tax before boarding your return flight. So make sure you keep enough local currency to cover the tax. Because you may have trouble doing exchange calculations in your head, precompute the value of several common items in the foreign currency. (Don't use items whose value in the foreign currency doesn't correspond with their value in dollars.) Then use these items as standards when shopping in the market. Chocolate bars and the cost of lunch are good yardsticks. It won't be exact, but it'll give you a quick and instinctive test for whether you're getting ripped off or not. Better yet, bring a calculator with you. Of course, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with the foreign currency, so that you don't have to rely on the vendor to count your change. If the government required you to declare how much money you brought into the country, keep receipts for all money exchanges and purchase. You may be required to prove that you exchanged your money legally. If you're inexperienced, don't dabble in black market currency exchanges. The black market is usually illegal, so you can get into a lot of trouble. The person you exchange with could be an undercover policeman, or could turn you in. Or they could be setting you up to be mugged afterwards (checking out how much money you have). If you don't know the going rate, you'll probably wind up being cheated. Never exchange money with a person you meet on the street. The black market will only exist in countries where hard currency (e.g., US dollars and strong currencies) are more desirable than the local currency. For example, countries with exchange controls, artificial exchange rates, or high inflation rates, and developing countries are likely candidates. Clean, crisp, high denomination bills are generally preferred. The safest way to take advantage of the black market is to use your currency to buy stuff at the peasant market (aka bazaar, shuk, etc.). After bargaining in the usual fashion using local currency, pull out an amount of your currency of lower total value. High class establishments will generally not engage in the black market. As a general rule, the benefits of black market exchanges don't outweigh the risks if you're just traveling on vacation.
Subject: [3-11] Frequent Flyer Programs American Airlines introduced frequent flyer programs in 1981 to encourage customer loyalty. The other major airlines quickly followed suit. Together, the 70+ frequent flyer programs give out more than 10 million free tickets annually. Most programs (e.g., United, American, USAir, and Northwest) will give you a free US domestic roundtrip for 20,000 miles, a ticket to Hawaii or the Carribbean for 30,000, a ticket to Europe for 40,000 and a ticket to Australia or Asia for 60,000. Each airline, however, has its own set of rules and somewhat different mileage levels. Delta requires 30,000 miles for a free US domestic ticket. Given joining bonuses and mileage promotions, one can sometimes reach this with one overseas flight. Northwest and USAir give you a minimum of 750 (Delta, 1000) miles for each flight segment. Northwest will give you two one-way tickets for 20,000 miles. NWA will not preissue boarding passes the day before the flight. Some airlines will award two tickets for less than twice the mileage needed for one ticket. For example, it is possible to get two tickets to the Carribbean from Continental for only 40,000 miles. Note: The minimum number of miles required for a US domestic roundtrip ticket will increase to 25,000 on United, USAir, and American on 8/1/94, 1/1/95, and 2/1/95, respectively. Since the travel certificates are good for one year, be sure to redeem your frequent flyer miles a few days before the deadline, or you'll have to earn an extra 5,000 miles for a free ticket. Other changes include an increase to 45,000 miles for a free first-class US domestic ticket on American, an increase to 50,000 miles for a free roundtrip ticket to Europe on United (as of 2/1/95), and a reduction in the minimum number of FF miles awarded per leg from 750 to 500 on Northwest. Northwest has also announced that it is dropping out of the American Express Membership Miles program (1 miles per $1 spent) on 3/31/94 or 4/30/94. Current members of AmEx Membership Miles are Continental, Delta, Southwest, and USAir. Northwest is switching to an arrangement with First Bank Visa (800-948-8300) and has already dropped their deal with Bank One Visa. Delta, Continental, USAir and Southwest are staying in the program. (Call 1-800-AXP-MILE for more information.) United will stop its practice of automatically mailing out award certificates at the 20,000 mile mark on 10/1/94, and will issue them only upon request, just like all the other frequent flyer programs. Northwest will allow frequent fliers to obtain a US domestic ticket for 20,000 miles (instead of 25,000 miles) as of 2/1/95 only if they travel from mid-September through mid-November. If you're using a frequent flyer ticket and traveling with a companion, give the award ticket to your companion so that you can rack up more miles on your paid-for ticket. Moreover, paid tickets are upgradable, while free tickets often aren't. Delta has established a "Rapid Redemption" program that allows you to redeem your frequent flyer miles for free tickets when buying a ticket by phone or at a Delta ticket office. There is a $60 charge, however, for this service. (The charge is per transaction.) You can still redeem the old way without the extra charge. Frequent flyer miles can also be exchanged for upgrades at no extra charge. Northwest's frequent flyer records do not seem to record flights that were changed after ticketing, so check the records carefully. However, Northwest recently installed a new phone system (1-800-327-2881) that lets you request a review of tickets to adjust your account. Air Canada 1-800-361-8253 Partners with Austrian, Cathay Pacific, Finnair, First Air, Singapore Alaska Airlines 1-800-654-5669 Partners with Northwest, TWA Aloha Airlines 1-800-486-7277 AAdvantage (American) 1-800-882-8880 Partners with TWA, Cathay Pacific, Singapore, Canadian Cancels miles after 3 years. America West 1-800-247-5691 Partners with Virgin Atlantic Canadian 1-604-270-7587 Partners with Air France, Lufthansa, American, Qantas (for flights between Australia, Fiji, Hawaii, and Canada). Continental 1-713-952-1630 Partners with Air France, KLM. Delta 1-800-323-2323 Partners with Air Canada, Air New Zealand, Japan Air Lines (no economy), KLM, Lufthansa, Singapore, Swissair Restrictions: US/Canadian residents only, only with voucher, travel must originate in US. MarkAir 1-800-MarkAir (1-800-627-5247) 500 miles for signing up, free travel starts after 10,000 miles. Midwest Express 1-800-452-2022 Northwest 1-800-447-3757 Partners with KLM. TWA 1-800-325-4815, 1-800-221-2000 Partners with American, Alaska, Air India, British Airways United 1-800-421-4655 Partners with Air France. Travel must originate in US. Also partners with SAS, Lufthansa, Alitalia, Aeromar (Mexico), Antillean Airlines (ALM -- to Caribbean), Aloha Airlines, Ansett Australia, Ansett New Zealand, British Midland, Emirates (Middle East), Gulfstream International (Caribbean), Sunaire Express (Caribbean), Transbrasil, and TW Express. Mileage is given only for the legs connecting a U.S. city to Europe for theses airlines. If you are continuing onward to say Asia, you will not receive mileage on United on the leg from Europe to Asia. USAir 1-800-872-4738 (frequent traveler service ctr) 1-800-442-2784 (international award travel) 1-800-428-4322 (US domestic reservations) Partners with British Airways and AF. British Airways 1-800-955-2748 Lets you combine the mileage for up to four family members. Partners with USAir. Hawaiian Airlines Gold Plus 1-800-367-7637 Mexicana Frequent Flyer 1-800-531-7901 USAir has a frequent flyer program for undertakers (or is it a "frequent dier" program?). Ship 30 corpses with USAir, and you get a free US domestic round trip ticket. If you catch an earlier flight, make sure that your frequent flyer number is recorded, even if you gave the number when checking in for the first flight. Frequent flyer numbers do not necessarily transfer from one record to another when you change flights. If this happens to you, send a copy of your ticket receipt and boarding pass to the airline to get your mileage recorded. (You may be able to just call the customer service department and tell them the ticket number from your receipt, instead.) It pays to ask about your frequent flyer number every time: when you make reservations, when you check in, and when you arrive at the gate for each flight segment. If you exchanged miles for a certificate but find you can't use it, some programs allow you to redeposit the miles back into your frequent flyer account, sometimes for a fee. Another option is to exchange the certificate for an "open" ticket. Such a ticket has a fixed origin and destination, but leaves the departure and return dates unspecified, and can be used for up to a year from the date of issue. With the recent mileage increases in frequent flyer programs, this alternative is especially attractive, since it effectively extends an expiring certificate for up to a year. If you want to use a free frequent flyer ticket, be sure to get the tickets well in advance of the flight. Seating for free tickets is usually limited on most flights, and tends to fill up fast. If you find that there are no seats available when you want to fly, try another airport. It may pay to drive 50-100 miles to catch a free flight from a smaller airport, even if you have to pay for long-term parking. Most airlines will transfer frequent flyer miles to your heirs upon your death. If there are enough miles for an award, the awards can be issued in their names. Otherwise the miles may be transferred to their accounts.
Subject: [3-12] Premier FF Membership If you travel more than a certain number of miles or flight segments on some airlines, they'll upgrade your membership in their frequent flyer program to Premier (Silver) or Gold status. These programs let you earn frequent flyer miles more quickly, let you get free or cheap upgrades, and get preferred seating. [As of 10-OCT-94, TWA eliminated its free space-available upgrade policy for frequent flyer members. Instead, you will receive upgrade certificates every so often depending on how many miles you've flown (e.g., every 3,000, 5,000, or 10,000 miles, depending on class of membership and type of fare). Frequent flyer members can also purchase upgrades from TWA airport or city ticket offices, by calling 800-221-2000 (fax 610-631-5280) or by writing to TWA Upgrades, PO Box 810, Fairview Village, PA 19409.] For example, TWA gold card holders can upgrade any unrestricted coach ticket to first class on a space available basis. (Likewise, in Continental, if you pay full fare coach and are a FF member, they'll upgrade you to first class.) Continental silver elite members get a 100% mileage bonus on subsequent flights. USAir waives blackout dates and capacity controls for award travel by members of their frequent flyer program who have reached the Priority Gold level. The mileage levels for status change vary from airline to airline, and the benefits vary as well, but typically one or two overseas flights or 20,000 to 35,000 US domestic miles will be sufficient to upgrade your status. Some airline reservation systems dynamicly modify the available seating based on your frequent flyer membership status. The idea is to reserve the desirable seats (window seats, far forward, away from engine noise) for the more active members of the frequent flyer program. Some airlines are also providing automatic free upgrades to first class at reservation time to high mileage flyers. So be sure to give your frequent flyer number before asking for a seat assignment. If you're a member of an airlines frequent flyer program and don't receive any mail from them within a month or two of flying, call them to make sure your account is still active and that they have your current address. Airlines sometimes misdirect your frequent flyer mail, especially after a temporary change of address or hold on mail.
Subject: [3-13] Hotel Frequent Flyer Plans Many large hotel chains offer frequent traveler incentives to their guests, including free airline miles and points that are redeemable for free hotel rooms. Some are even offering the free airline miles without requiring a flight with the stay. Here's a summary of what the hotels are now offering: Hilton: - Airline Miles: 500 miles/stay. Airlines include Air Canada, American, America West, and United (no flight required); Delta and USAir (ticket and boarding pass required). - Points: 10 points per $1 spent. Redeemable for free weekend nights, sports tickets, and merchandise. - May earn miles and points for same stay. Spouses may combine points. - 3 stays earn one free weekend night. - Extra goodies for gold-level members (12 stays/year), such as airline club passes, boosts in FF membership status, and car rental club benefits. Holiday Inn: - Airline Miles: 500 miles/stay, 2.5 miles per dollar spent. Airlines include Air Canada and Northeast (flight required), United and Northwest. - Points: 1 point per $1 spent. Redeemable for free travel and merchandise. - May not earn miles and points for same stay. (No double dipping.) - $10/year membership fee, waived for the first year. Hyatt: - Airline Miles: 500 miles/stay for United mileage (no flight required), Alaska Airlines, Northwest, and USAir (flight required). 1000 miles/stay for Delta (flight required). - Points: 5 points per $1 spent. Redeemable for free travel, room upgrades, and car rentals. - May not earn miles and points for same stay. (No double dipping.) Marriott: - Airline Miles: 500 miles/stay for American, British Airways, Northwest, or USAir. 1000 miles/stay for Continental or TWA (no flight required). 2,500 bonus miles after fifth stay. 5,000 bonus miles for Continental. - Points: 10 points per $1 spent, including amounts charged to your room, but excluding tax and service charges. Bonus points from Hertz car rental. Redeemable for free travel, hotel rooms, and car rentals. 35,000 points gets you a free night stay in any Marriott Hotel. - Restrictions: In a given stay, can get points or miles, but not both. Sheraton: - Sheraton Miles: 2 miles per $1 spent for (free) standard membership (blue club card), 3 miles per $1 spent for gold membership ($25/year, golden club card). Each Sheraton Mile is redeemable for one Airline Mile on American or United. Sheraton Miles are redeemable for free stays, special vacation packages, etc. Gold membership provides you with 4 pm late check-out guarantee, room upgrades, and other amenities. Many hotels also offer discounts for members of certain groups. For example, membership in AAA (American Automobile Association) or the AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) for example can get you a 10% discount at many hotels and motels. Visiting someone at a local university or hospital can be good for either a discount or a room upgrade, depending on the hotel. There are also often special discounts for government employees and military personnel. Note that you don't need to be 65 to become a member of the AARP -- you can be as young as 50. You also don't necessarily need to be a member of the AARP to take advantage of some discounts. For example, if you're over 50, Choice Hotels offers a 30% discount for travelers with advance reservations, 10% for those with no reservation. Always ask for the best price, especially in the off-peak travel season.
Subject: [3-14] Credit Card Voucher Offers Several credit card companies offer vouchers for cheap airline travel as an incentive to enroll students. 1. American Express. Students who apply for the standard green card ($55/year) or gold card ($75/year) will receive five "Travel Savings Certificates" if approved (within 2-3 weeks of receiving the card). Putting the vouchers to good use can easily result in your saving more than the cost of the card. Income and employment requirements for the gold card are waived for graduate students. Three of the vouchers are good for travel anywhere in the 48 contiguous United States on Continental Airlines or Continental Express. Each certificate is good for two roundtrip coach class tickets (same itinerary). If you cross the Mississippi the cost is $239/ticket; otherwise just $159/ticket. These vouchers are not good for travel to Florida between 2/12 and 4/30 and between 6/15 and 8/25; during those periods, you must use the special "Florida Certificate". The cost for tickets with this certificate is $239 for travel between Florida and destinations east of the Mississippi; $299 for destinations west of the Mississippi. The last voucher gets you $50 off an international roundtrip coach class fare of $400 or more, or $75 off an international roundtrip coach class fare of $600 or more. Restrictions: Reservations for US domestic travel must be made and tickets purchased WITHIN 21 days of travel. The maximum stay is 14 days and must include a Saturday night. Reservations for international travel must be made and tickets purchased at least 7 days before departure (or earlier, if required by the fare). The minimum stay is 8 days and must include a Saturday night. All the certificates allow you to take along a student companion at the same price. The vouchers expire 1 year after issue. Although seating is limited, students report that they've had little trouble getting a last-minute reservation with the vouchers. They may have had to be flexible with their departure and return times and dates, but they've hardly ever had a problem getting to their destination. Traveling during off-peak times will increase your chances of getting a seat. Don't expect to be able to get a seat around Christmas and Thanksgiving. Tickets must be purchased using the American Express card. (Some students report success in using the vouchers with other credit cards.) The vouchers are not transferable, and the tickets are neither transferable nor refundable (and the airlines do check your student id both at the ticket counter and at the gate). To work around the non-transferrable restriction, use your first initial instead of your first name, and (if female) ask to have your maiden (alternately, married) name on the ticket (which allows you to substitute an arbitrary last name, if you're not bothered by the sleaziness). [Note: When travelling on Continental, beware of connections in their hub in Newark NJ.] If you are a student, have an AmEx card and haven't received the vouchers, call the 800 number (1-800-582-5823 or 1-800-528-4800) and they'll send them out to your billing address. [As of 9/1/93, USAir is no longer honoring the AmEx travel vouchers. As of 12/1/94, they seem to be honoring them again.] Although the current AmEx tickets are for travel on Continental Airlines, USAir will honor them for travel on USAir (non-summer coupons only; you may use the non-summer coupons during the summer, however). Give the following promotion code to the travel agent when using the AmEx/Continental vouchers for travel on USAir: H/CO AMEX STUDENT USAir seems less likely than Continental to check for student id. In general, USAir seems to accept coupons from almost any other airline. 2. Chase Manhattan VISA [ THIS PROGRAM HAS BEEN DISCONTINUED. ] Same cost structure as the AmEx/Continental vouchers ($129 if you don't cross the Mississippi River, $189 if you do), but for travel on USAir. Maximum stay of 60 days (Saturday stay not required). Tickets must be purchased within 48 hours of reservation. Valid student id must be presented at time of ticketing. Blackout dates around Thanksgiving, Christmas, and some destination-specific days. 3. Citibank VISA The Citibank AAdvantage VISA/MC charges a $50 annual fee (not a great deal, when no-fee VISA/MC cards abound). Earns 1 mile for every dollar spent. (You'd need to spend $25,000 to get a free PlanAAhead ticket.) Given the annual fee, not that good a deal. If you decide to get it, wait until American runs their next sign up bonus (typically either a free round-trip companion ticket or 5,000 free miles). Note that it takes 4-6 weeks to get the companion ticket. 4. Bank One TravelPlus Visa Card With the TravelPlus Card, you accumulate one point for each dollar spent. These points may then be redeemed for tickets on any airline, with no blackout dates (14-day advance notice and Saturday night stay required). 12,000 points gets you a free round-trip ticket within a zone in the US (each zone about 1/3 of the US) and 20,000 points gets you a free round-trip ticket anywhere in the continental US. 30,000 points to the Carribean/Mexico; 35,000 to Alaska/Hawaii; 50,000 to Europe; 75,000 to Asia; and 85,000 to Australia. The card costs $25/year for classic ($55/year for gold). You get 1,000 bonus points upon approval. Call 1-800-694-9596 for more information about the Bank One Travel Plus program (1-800-945-2023 is Bank One's customer service number). The June 1994 issue of Smart Money contains a review of frequent flyer programs (page 120), including a summary of credit card mileage tie-ins. The best way to find out about airline affinity cards is to call the airline in question and ask.
Subject: [3-15] Telephone Companies These programs give you frequent flyer miles for every dollar spent on long distance phone calls. If you can, charge your phone bill to one of the affinity credit cards to get even more miles. 1. MCI. (Originated the idea in 1989.) MCI currently offers 500 miles to enroll and 5 miles for every dollar spent. Airlines include Northwest, American, and Continental. 1-800-755-2172 2. US Sprint. Airlines include TWA and America West. 3. AT&T With the AT&T True Rewards program, you can earn frequent flier miles on Delta, United Airlines, or USAir (or free AT&T long distance certificates). During every month you spend $25 or more on long distance, you earn 5 frequent flier miles for every $1 spent. During the first month you get a triple bonus (quadruple credit). Call 1-800-7-REWARD to enroll. Only calls billed via an AT&T calling card or dial 1 service are eligible. You don't have to decide what to do with your credits until you cash them in, and you can get 5% cash back instead, if you prefer. 4. Metromedia. Airlines include TWA. 5. Teletravel. Airlines include Continental. Other relevant programs: + Air Miles Program 800-222-2AIR
Subject: [3-16] Discount Coupon Offers Discount coupons for air travel can often be obtained from a variety of sources: - AAA has included dollars-off coupons for travel on USAir and United in their membership newsletter in the past. - Some catalogs and magazines, especially those associated with business equipment, such as the AT&T phone catalog, have included coupons for savings on flights on Continental and Northwest. - Supermarkets in California periodically offer promotions providing discount coupons upon purchase of a certain amount of groceries. - Discover card and other credit cards have on occasion included discount certificates with the monthly bills. Others offer discount certificates for opening an account. See also "Credit Card Voucher Offers" above. - A number of banks periodically offer discount coupons for opening accounts, usually certificate of deposit accounts (CDs) with some minimum balance. - Computer hardware and software manufacturers are now offering coupons for free or cheap companion fares or other discount fares with the purchase of their product. Recent offers (1994) include Microsoft for software purchases and Compaq for laptop purchases. The coupons typically have several blackout dates, require a Saturday night stay, and have a lot of fine print, but are often transferable. People will often advertise to sell these coupons over the net. You can also get travel discount coupons in some of the travel discount books, but you can almost certainly get them for free from some of the publications listed above. But if you can't find one, spending $20 to save $50 is probably worth it. Such entertainment books include 800-513-6000 ($19.95, includes United coupon), 800-445-4137 (Continental coupon), 800-521-9640 ($25, Continental coupon). ----------------------------------------------------------------

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