Last-Modified: Wed Jul 5 18:36:33 1995 by Mark Kantrowitz
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;;; 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 email@example.com.
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
[3-7] Pregnant Passengers
[3-8] Tips for Families Flying with Children
[3-9] Tips for Business Travelers
[3-9b] Best Seats
[3-10] Exchanging Currency
[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
Advisories and related files may also be obtained by anonymous ftp
or retrieved by firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also get updates by mail
by joining the travel-advisories list. To subscribe, send an email
message to email@example.com with
in the message body. [This service is provided by Craig D. Rice
<firstname.lastname@example.org>, 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
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
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
+ 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
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
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
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
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 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
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
+ Swallowing a lot during takeoff and landing (the times of the greatest
pressure changes) can sometimes help. Some folks recommend
+ 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"
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,
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
+ If meals are served on the flight, ask for the special
+ 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.
+ 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
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
+ 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
+ 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
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.
+ Use a travel agency which provides a 24-hour number to handle
+ 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
+ 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
+ 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
+ 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.
+ 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.
+ 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
+ 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
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
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
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,
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
Partners with Air France, Lufthansa, American, Qantas (for flights
between Australia, Fiji, Hawaii, and Canada).
Partners with Air France, KLM.
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
Partners with KLM.
TWA 1-800-325-4815, 1-800-221-2000
Partners with American, Alaska, Air India, British Airways
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
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
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
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:
- 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.
- 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
- May not earn miles and points for same stay. (No double dipping.)
- $10/year membership fee, waived for the first year.
- 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.)
- 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
- 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
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.
2. US Sprint. Airlines include TWA and America West.
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
- 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
- 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
- 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).