Archive for the ‘Flying’ Category

10 Travel Hacks for a Hitch-Free Vacation

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

Travel Hacks are the tips and tricks you need to know in order to save time and money during a trip.  The following travel hacks are some of my favorite, and most proven ways, to make traveling go more smoothly.

0_120-CIOL4J-JJ1. Keep copies of your important documents on your smartphone.  Scan your driver’s license, passport, even your credit card and then email them to yourself. This provides an extra copy of each in the event of loss or theft. As an iPhone user, you can open them and then save them onto iBooks that can be accessed regardless of Internet connection.

2. Use ATMs to get local currency. When traveling abroad, stay clear of money converters in the airport that tack on their own fees and high exchange rates. ATMs always dispense local currency, and are usually located within the airports and train stations, so use your debit or credit card and get your money there.

3. Use a dryer sheet to keep your clothes fresh in your suitcase.

4. When you pack necklaces, run them through a plastic straw so they don’t get tangled. Put earrings and other small jewelry pieces in a pill box or other separated storage box.

5. Use plastic bags…for just about anything. Whether you are the only one traveling or you have the kids in tow, use plastic bags to separate undergarments, socks and even complete outfits. Once you put the folded clothes inside, push down on the bags to let out the air before sealing them.  You will save lots of space and keep organized.  Extra bags are great for anything that might leak, wet clothing (bathing suits) and stinky shoes. And for the return trip, the plastic bags are great for keeping track of dirty laundry.

6. Use the doorstop as a security device. Little rubber doorstops hide out behind hotel-room doors. Instead of simply using it to prop open your doors, you can also use them to keep your door shut. Trust me, I’ve been in a room where a stranger was mistakenly given the key to my occupied room. It’s an alarming feeling. So if you want an added level of security when you turn in for the night, wedge the doorstop under the bolted door.

7. Make a facial scrub for a long-haul flight. When I fly to Europe from the US, I like to feel fresh and not look as if I traveled all night (even though I did).  Here’s something that can help.

  • Ask the flight attendant for some lemon slices and a packet of sugar. Take these and head to the bathroom.
  • Mix the sugar and lemon juice together and use a scrub on your face. This works on your lips as well.
  • Rinse off and you’ll feel instantly refreshed!

8. Travel with an empty water bottle. Staying hydrated is important. Take an empty bottle (plastic or metal) and fill it up for free at a tap or drinking fountain when you get through the gates. Flight attendants will fill it up for you on a flight.

9.  Secret Storage at the Beach. Clean out an old bottle of sunscreen and use it to store keys, money, even your phone.  You may need to be creative and cut a secret door on the back to fit your items inside.

10. Refill hotel shampoo and conditioner bottles with your favorite hair care products. The bottles are just the right size for your carry-on and you’ll feel better about how your hair looks during your travel.


Have a favorite travel hack? Share it here with us on Travel Smart Blog!



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Travel Sticky Situation: Oh No! They Lost My Luggage!

Monday, January 27th, 2014

Losing luggage is sort of like jury duty.  If you’ve never had it happen to you, chances are you will one day. But finding out that your bags are stuck in another city is frustrating and requires that you follow a series of steps to ensure that you retrieve your belongings.  First things first:

Don’t panic!

Chances are in your favor that you will (eventually) retrieve your luggage. The good news is that according to the Department of Transportation only 2% of luggage mishandled by airlines is forever lost or unclaimed.  The most common causes of lost and delayed bags are late check-ins and tight connections. Avoid both when you can by giving yourself ample time to get to the airport and to make flight changes.

What to do when the airline loses your luggage

Once you realize that you and your luggage are not in the same place, you need to speak with the airline’s baggage counter.  Be sure that you have the luggage receipt for each bag you checked as these slips enable the airline employee to determine if your luggage is delayed, left behind in transit or completely lost. Do NOT leave the airport until you have filed a claim.

If your bags are delayed

Airlines will usually take down your local information and deliver your bag to you once it arrives.  If you will be without your bag for more than a few hours or not having it will cause you to need to purchase some items, airlines will normally pay “reasonable” expenses until your bag is found. The amount paid is subject to negotiation, and you may have to fight for a decent payment. Keep in mind, if they’ve been sent to the wrong airport, it could take a couple of days.

  • If you are taking the effort and paying the cost of checking a bag then take the time to make an itemized packing list, in the event that your bag does get lost, and keep it in your carry-on bag.
  • Always keep a clean shirt (if you are wearing a suit) and a set of undergarments in your carry-on. Additionally, never pack medicines and valuables into your checked-bags. Keep those with you.
    • The airlines typically have a long list of items for which they will not be held responsible; these include jewelry, money, heirlooms and other valuables. These sorts of items should always be left at home or kept in your possession in your carry-on bag.

If your bags are really lost or stolen:

You’ll have to file a claim for when your bag is officially “lost” too. Not just delayed. There is usually a time limit in place to do this, so stay on top of it. Of course, the airlines are not so quick to reimburse your losses but they will do it. Airlines typically pay out a claim within 100 days of the loss.  For bags lost or damaged on flights within the U.S., a liability limit of $3,300 applies. On international trips, the liability limit may vary, as it is different given the various international jurisdictions.


Please note: once they pay you, the bag is now the property of the airline. After that, if the baggage is found, it is the airline’s to sell. Your former bag then makes its way to Scottsboro, AL to the Unclaimed Baggage Center (your guess is as good as mine as to why bags are sent to Alabama).  If you can’t make the drive, you can shop online

Tools You Can Use

One of the smartest things you can do during this process is to stay on the airline’s case with Twitter and Facebook. Airlines do respond quickly to problems they hear about on social media.  Just remember that it is okay to share your frustration but don’t become hostile: it won’t help your case. Try and imagine if you had the baggage recovery job at the airport, and take a deep breath.

Want something more sophisticated? The Trakdot hitches a ride inside your bag and uses local cell networks to determine what city your bag is in and relays that information back to your smartphone as a text message.  Less official, but equally effective, would be a mini GPS tracker. Simply be aware of the device’s range and you can take tracking your bags into you own hands.

Perhaps reading this blog post will be like carrying an umbrella: once you’re prepared, you won’t even use it!  But in the event your bags do get lost one day, I hope that these tips help you along the way.

Ever had your bag lost or stolen? Share your story with us. What did you do?



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Layover Lookout: SFO’s Yoga Room

Monday, January 6th, 2014

Thinking of jumping on the “New Year, New You” band wagon this year? While walking through the open and fresh SFO International Airport over the holiday travel season, we were reminded that even a small effort can make all the difference.

In fact, opportunities to make these small changes in 2014 are all around. For example, if you’re looking to pick up a better wellness regimen in the new year, but feel you don’t have the time to keep it up while traveling, considering booking a flight that comes through SFO International.

One of the airport’s coolest features is a Yoga Room, fully equipped with mats, pillows, mirrors, and a calm atmosphere for you to get in a couple of moments of “me time” in between flights!


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Travel Sticky Situation: Delayed/Stranded by Winter Weather

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013

Tis the season to be traveling, so as we prepare for another holiday travel week, let’s review the top winter travel tips. The good news is that The Weather Channel is not predicting any major snowstorms in the U.S. over Christmas. Nevertheless, Mother Nature is never beyond a good storm surprise, so let’s be ready for whatever she throws at us this winter.

Trouble Ahead! Travel To-Dos

AA046865When winter storms approach, airlines begin preemptively waiving change fees in order to avoid stranded travelers.  If you have a trip on the horizon, DO stay tuned to national weather forecasts and check the travel advisories of your airline for delays, cancellations and rescheduling policies to see how any of it may affect your trip. You may not need to cancel your trip yet, but you should be aware of the possibility and begin considering alternate plans.

You are your best advocate. DO always have the hotel phone number, airline number, all of your confirmation numbers, and directions ON PAPER in addition to stored in your smart phone. You never know when you’ll be without battery, coverage or a charger.

If you are heading to your destination and get delayed, DO be sure to keep your hotel informed of your situation so you do not incur unnecessary charges for a no-show. If you are heading home and find yourself needing to stay an extra night, check availability as soon as you can to avoid having to scramble for other accommodations.

If You Get Stranded…

Remember when weather puts your trip to sleep, it doesn’t mean the airline owes you a good night’s rest in a hotel.   If you are already at the airport when delays or cancellations occur, DO be sure to have enough of the essentials to get you through a day… or two. For me, that’s contact solution, my phone charger, laptop and cord.

  • DO pack your patience: you are not the only one trying to cancel and rebook – be kind, don’t give up.
  • DO claim any reimbursement you are entitled to (for example, accidental charges for change fees) in writing and keep a copy. File claims as soon as possible.
  • DO forward copies of all documents to your travel insurer, if you have one.

Road-Trip To-Dos

And if you are behind the wheel this winter, possibly one of the best to-DO suggestions is to make a trip plan.  Pilots file a flight plan before takeoff, so driving our cars shouldn’t be any different. Make sure you DO advise someone of your trip plans.  DO call ahead to your destination and let someone know when you intend to leave, what route you will be traveling and your expected time of arrival.  If someone at your starting point and someone at your destination know your plans, help can reach you much more quickly, in the event of an emergency.

Safe Travels throughout the holidays and a merry and bright 2014!



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Layover Lookout

Friday, September 13th, 2013






rome airportRome’s Leonardo da Vinci, Fiumicino Airport:

Italian fashion all-stars Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci and Valentino make this seemingly dull airport a Roman shopping mecca.  For those who are less apt to throw down thousands of dollars while waiting for a plane, the duty-free shop houses incredible Chianti wine, truffle-infused pastas, elaborate sauces, oils, chocolates and coffees for you to bring home.  You can’t get a bad meal in Rome, not even at the airport

St. Louis, Lambert International Airport:

Wine Tasting? At the airport? Don’t mind if I do! If you’re passing through the main terminal of St. Louis’ Lambert International Airport, you must check out Missouri Vineyards located on the ticketing level, pre-security, near the American Airlines counters. It’s floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the runways and live piano player transport you from the hustle and bustle of the airport. Enjoy delectable dishes made especially to pair with wine, such as Asian Fusion Salmon, Lime Chicken Brie Sandwich, Cheese & Fruit Plates, and more. And for some French specialties that capture the essence of STL’s history, check out the lovely Brioche Dorée Café right next door!




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