Tuesday, March 18, 2014

London to Open "Secret Tube" to Tourists

A network of disused underground tunnels, that were once used to transport rail across London, have been given the go-ahead to open as a tourist attraction. Mail Rail first opened in 1927 and in its heyday used a series of driverless trains to transport post beneath the capital's streets from the East End's Whitechapel to Paddington in the west. Islington Council has approved plans to allow tourists to descend beneath the city and ride the trains that sit below some of the London's most iconic sights. From 2020, visitors will be able to ride the 'secret Tube', departing from Mount Pleasant, in Islington, which was once one of the largest sorting offices in the world. 

The original track was 6.5 miles long and had a total of eight stations and at some stages narrowed to just 7ft wide. Tourists will ride the miniature trains for a total of 0.6 miles, while learning about the history of the Post Office. A new postal museum will also open on the Mount Pleasant site in 2016, displaying artefacts from British postal history, including telegrams from the Titanic, original evidence from the Great Train Robbery trial and pistols used to defend mail coaches in the 19th Century. The Mail Rail was finally closed in 2003, after Royal Mail built a new hub in Willesden, west London and it was decided it would be cheaper to transport mail by road instead of using the tunnels.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

App To Help Travelers Collect Airline Compensation

Getting compensation from an airline for a delayed, canceled or overbooked flight can range from difficult to impossible as many travelers have found out this bad winter. There are several online companies including Air Help, EU claim and refund.me that charge a fee ranging from 15 to 27% (plus, in some cases, handling charges), for helping European travelers file claims under regulations that apply to flights to or from a European Union member state. 

Now, one of those companies is offering its services to U.S. fliers online, and through a free app. Air Help estimates that, under U.S. Department of Transportation's rules, each year a total of $450 million in potential compensation is owed to passengers involuntarily bumped on overbooked U.S. flights and that, under European Union regulations, there are $2.1 billion in potential claims for U.S. air passengers flying to, from or within Europe on EU carriers. Because many travelers don't understand the rules, only a small amount of the compensation owed to passengers gets claimed or paid. That's where Air Help comes in. You give them the details of your flight, and they'll check whether or not you're legally owed any compensation. If you are, you sign a PDF that gives them power of attorney (with regards to dealing with the airline), and they go hunting for the cash. If you end up getting paid, they keep 25% of it. And if you don't you pay nothing. 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

US Government Looking at High Tech Solutions for Faster Airport Screening

The US Department of Homeland Security is pushing for private contractors to create a screening machine with "screen and walk" capability for use at the nation's 160 international airports and thousands of federal facilities. The agency recently requested information from high-tech companies and other private firms about any new technology that can help speed up the security checkpoints managed by the TSA and the Federal Protective Services. 

The DHS asked for technology that can screen a minimum of 250 people per hour, which is slightly faster than the current pace of about 200 per hour for the full-body scanners. The new technology would not replace but would add to the screening technology now used at airports. "The system will detect an explosive or assembled IED (improvised explosive device) with and without divestiture of outer garments, shoes and through clutter depending on the deployment," according to the government request. "In addition, detection should occur through a minimum of 2 layers of clothing concealment where those layers are composed of cotton, cotton-polyester, wool, silk and leather materials among others."

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Caribbeans Newest Cruise Port

The Banana Coast, the western Caribbean's newest cruise port, welcomed its first cruise ship to Trujillo, Honduras earlier this week. Travel Dynamics International's 130-passenger Yorktown made the inaugural visit and is scheduled to return next Monday. After tendering ashore Yorktown passengers were greeted by performances by Garifuna musicians, browsed locally made crafts and set out on tours to the nearby rain forest or relaxed on the beach. Banana Coast was included in Yorktown's 'Tropical Islands, Rain Forests & Ancient Sites of Central America' itinerary. Banana Coast has shopping, a newly built tender dock, reception center and transportation hub as well as 10 acres of beachfront in the town of Trujillo, which was established in 1525.

Diverse shore excursions feature the region's Spanish colonial heritage and lush tropical setting with cultural, historical, soft adventure and eco-tour offerings. Five cruise lines have scheduled 20 calls on eight ships at Honduras' first mainland cruise destination. Holland America Line was the first major cruise operator to commit to a series of calls beginning in November 2014 through March 2015. Silversea Cruises has calls in December 2014 and March 2015. P&O Cruises and Oceania Cruises are booked in the first quarter of 2015.

Contact a Professional Travel Agent today to book your next cruise vacation!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

FAA Bans Pilots Texting in Flight

The FAA has issued final regulations banning commercial airline pilots from using Personal Electronic Devices (PEDs) while in the cockpit operating aircraft. The rule will take effect in 60 days and provides mandates for prohibitions that the FAA and lawmakers have been looking to finalize in recent years. Within the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, lawmakers included a provision for the agency to develop a rule that prohibits airline flight crews from using personal wireless communications devices for personal reasons during all phases of flight. "This rule will ensure that certain non-essential activities do not contribute to the challenge of task management on the flight deck and do not contribute to a loss of situational awareness due to attention to non-essential activities, as highlighted by these incidents," the agency said in its issuance of the new rule.  

Thursday, February 06, 2014

New Pyramid Discovered in Egypt

Archaeologists working near the ancient settlement of Edfu, in southern Egypt, have uncovered a step pyramid that dates back about 4,600 years, predating the Great Pyramid of Giza by at least a few decades. The step pyramid, which once stood as high as 43 feet, is one of seven so-called "provincial" pyramids built by either the pharaoh Huni (reign ca. 2635-2610 B.C.) or Snefru (reign ca. 2610-2590 B.C.). Over time, the step pyramid's stone blocks were pillaged, and the monument was exposed to weathering, so today, it's only about 16 feet tall. These provincial step pyramids are scattered throughout central and southern Egypt. They have no internal chambers and were not intended for burial. Six of the seven pyramids have almost identical dimensions, including the newly uncovered one at Edfu, which is about 60 x 61 feet. It has hieroglyphic graffiti incised on the outer faces of the pyramid. The inscriptions are located beside the remains of babies and children who were buried at the foot of the pyramid.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Canada and U.S. to Share Information from Border Crossings

Records of Canadians' trips across the border into the United States could soon be shared with a number of federal departments, including the RCMP and CSIS. Under an expanded data-exchange program between the two countries set to take effect on June 30, a traveler’s entry into one country will be used to create an exit record from the other country. 

The data has the potential to help Canadian authorities track people who may be travelling abroad to engage in terrorism and identify people who are out of the country but still receiving social assistance benefits. Information collected under the program will consist of "routine biographic information," such as first name, last name, middle name, date of birth, nationality, gender, document type, document number and document country of issuance, as well as time and place of entry into or exit from Canada. The $117-million data-sharing program is part of Canada's Beyond the Border Action Plan, designed to improve border security and the flow of goods between the two countries.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Carnival Cruises to Offer Big Name Musical Acts

Starting in April, Carnival Cruise Line will launch an experience branded "Carnival LIVE" featuring live performances by artists including Jennifer Hudson, LeAnn Rimes, Olivia Newton- John, Lady Antebellum, Trace Adkins and other stars. The artists will join ships at home ports in Cozumel, Nassau and Catalina Island, playing the last night of one cruise and the first night of the next. The performers will be in the main show lounge, and will not be sailing.

These shows are not included in the cruise fare. Tickets will cost $20 to $40, and can be purchased in advance through the line's web-based shore excursion system, or on board at the shore excursion desk, if available. VIP tickets, selling for $100 to $150 each, will include a meet-and-greet with photo opportunities, a laminated concert pass and seating in the first three rows.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Aircraft Security Now Part of TSA

The TSA is again expanding its responsibilities by taking over the inspection of aircraft repair stations in an attempt to lower the risk of theft and other terrorism-related activity. The move will cover about 4,100 domestic repair stations and 700 foreign ones, as the agency attempts to satisfy a Congressional order passed about a decade ago. According to the Associated Press, Congress first mandated the TSA to inspect airport repair stations over concern that they made easy targets for terrorists wishing to steal a plane or plant a bomb onboard one. The FAA is responsible for repair stations but their job is to ensure the conditions of work quality meet US standards. With the TSA now preparing to inspect shops for security, the FAA will be able to continue authorizing new stations, a process that had been halted previously. The new rules apply only to stations operating at or near airports, since the agency found other locations "represent a minimal risk to aviation security." No examinations will be performed without the cooperation of that nation's government.

Thursday, January 09, 2014

New York's Tallest Hotel Opens

Marriott International, Inc and G Holdings announced the opening of a combined 378-room Courtyard hotel and 261-suite Residence Inn hotel in Midtown Manhattan. The $320 million tallest single-use hotel in North America is located at 1717 Broadway. It was built and is owned by G Holdings and managed by Interstate Hotels & Resorts. The 68-story building is just steps from Central Park and Times Square. The hotels offer guests convenient access to Carnegie Hall, the Broadway Theater District, Fifth Avenue, Rockefeller Center and Radio City Music Hall. The hotels offer valet parking and share 6,000 square feet of meeting space, a fitness center located on the 35th floor with floor-to-ceiling windows and an outdoor sundeck for stretching, relaxing or seasonal sunning. Some guest rooms also feature floor-to-ceiling windows offering spectacular views of Central Park, Times Square and the Hudson River.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Airlines That Offer In-Flight Phone Calls and Texting

There are at least 19 airlines that currently allow passengers to make calls from their mobile phone while in flight. So far there haven't been many complaints, probably because it costs so much that the calls being made are short. The calls are contingent on individual passengers' international calling plans. International roaming rates tend to be in the $3 to $4 per minute range, and are billed to the passenger by their network operator. The average in-flight voice call is less than two minutes, and commonly takes place before takeoff or after landing as passengers connect with families, colleagues and friends. 

Here is a list of airlines that allow voice calls, SMS texting, and/or email and data on passengers' mobile phones. Aer Lingus Long haul but doesn't allow voice calls; Aeroflot A320, A330, B777; Air Asia select short-haul flights; Air France select long haul B77-300; Azerbaijan Airlines A320; British Airways A318; Egypt Air A330; Emirates long haul to/from Dubai; Etihad long haul; KLM B777-300; Libyan Airlines A320, A330; Malaysia Airlines Select Boeing 777 flights; Oman Air Select A330 flights; Philippine Airlines A330, B777; Qatar Airways A320, B787; Royal Jordanian A320; SAS B737-883; Saudi Arabian Airlines A330, B777; Singapore Airlines Select A340, A380, B777; TAM A320 family; TAP Portugal Select A319s; Transaero Select B747s, B777s; Virgin Atlantic A330-300, B747-400. In-flight voice calls have restrictions: They are not allowed during takeoff or landings, airlines generally disable them at night, and the cockpit and crew have separate switches to turn off voice calls, if desired. 

Thursday, December 05, 2013

TSA Attempting to Reduce Airport Lines

Travelers who use the TSA's Pre-Check program get to keep their shoes, belts and sweaters on and do not have to pull their laptops from cases or display their baggy of liquids as they hustle through special airport checkpoint lines. Their carry-on luggage still passes through X-ray machines, and they still must step through metal detectors. The TSA says that more than 25 million fliers have used the zip-through-security program since its soft rollout in 2011. 

Now it is opening a registration Web site, sign-up centers at major airports and a few downtown locations nationwide, with the first at Indianapolis International Airport this week and one set to open at Dulles International before year's end. Opening the enrollment centers, 300 in all, will be a step toward TSA's grander plan to reduce the security hassle for low-risk passengers so workers can focus on those who give some reason for suspicion. The TSA says someone who shows up at an enrollment center will spend about 10 minutes (not counting any wait time) signing up for the program. It requires a background check, fingerprints and an $85 fee for a five-year enrollment. A passport, required for some other programs, is not necessary. Members will receive a "known traveler number" to provide to airlines when making a reservation. That makes the traveler eligible for the speedy line at 102 big airports or when flying with seven airlines, including all the major ones. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Hotels Utilizing Unused Space for Guest Offices

Hotels are reacting to, and capitalizing on the changing habits of today's workers, who are increasingly deciding for themselves where and how they're going to work. Hotels are especially trying to appeal to travelers in their 20s and 30s who have a unique style of working. These next-generation professionals grew up working in Starbucks, Panera, libraries, and working outside. 

Marriott's Workspace on Demand program, at more than 200 properties, is a collaboration with Liquid Space, a mobile/Web app that connects people to spaces to work and meet. Hotel 1000 in Seattle offers travelers and telecommuters pop-up offices in meeting rooms or private-function spaces that would otherwise be empty. From Monday to Friday, the hotel announces on its Facebook and Twitter pages and at hotel1000seattle.com/meetings-events/pop-up-office which spaces are available and for how much. Rather than open windowless conference rooms to workers, a number of hotels are making livelier spaces or outdoor areas available. The Marco Island Marriott Beach Resort in Florida, for instance, has a tiki hut that workers can use. The Marriott Marquis in Atlanta has a 49th floor space with an expansive view of the city. At Topaz Hotel in Wasington, D.C., workers can reserve the Moroccan-themed Zen Den toward the back of the bar for meetings. At the Delano Hotel South Beach and Mondrian South Beach in Miami, people can book poolside cabanas. The cabanas have been outfitted with Wi-Fi, flat-screen TVs, and, upon request, wireless printing!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Favorite and Least Favorite Airports

USA TODAY recently sent an informal airport survey out to more than 1,600 of the world's most frequent business travelers who volunteer information to the news outlet. Dallas Fort/Worth Airport finished No. 1 among U.S. airports, and Amsterdam's Schiphol airport ranks at the top of foreign airports. Least favorites were O'Hare and Paris' Charles DeGaulle. Atlanta, Detroit and San Francisco were favorite runners-up for domestic airports. In expressing his displeasure with CDG, one responder said, "I simply have quit flying ever into Paris Charles de Gaulle. It just doesn't work at all on any level. It's located way outside the city, it's a long, expensive taxi ride in, the design and layout are confusing, and there is literally nothing to do at that airport."

Thursday, November 07, 2013

White House Tours Resume After 7 Months

The White House resumed public tours on Tuesday, seven months after they were suspended due to government-wide spending cuts. The self-guided tours are resuming on a limited basis of about three days a week, down from five. They'll run through Jan. 15, when temporary funding runs out. The White House says visitors who want to request a public tour should contact their member of Congress.

Friday, November 01, 2013

FAA to Allow Use of Electronic Devices on Flights

The Federal Aviation Administration announced that it will allow the use of electronic devices at all stages of flight, but that airlines will have to test their own aircraft to make sure there is no interference. The FAA released a statement prior to the press conference that read, "The U.S. Department of Transportation's Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Administrator Michael Huerta today announced that the FAA has determined that airlines can safely expand passenger use of Portable Electronic Devices (PEDs) during all phases of flight, and is immediately providing the airlines with implementation guidance. Due to differences among fleets and operations, the implementation will vary among airlines, but the agency expects many carriers will prove to the FAA that their planes allow passengers to safely use their devices in airplane mode, gate-to-gate, by the end of the year." 

Jet Blue became the first airline to allow passengers use electronic devices throughout the flight. Airlines have to prove to the FAA that their take off and landing operations won't be affected by the use of the electronic devices. JetBlue said its tests had been certified and their passengers were able to use their devices starting at 6 pm last night. Delta was waiting for approval and is ready to start today if the FAA approves. Cell phones should be in airplane mode or with cellular service disabled, no signal bars displayed, and cannot be used for voice communications due to Federal Communications Commission regulations that prohibit any airborne calls on cell phones. The new rules apply only to flights in the U.S., and not flights to U.S. territories such as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Halloween Around the World

Last weekend I took the annual trip out to the local pumpkin patch with my daughter, to pick some pumpkins that we carved into jack-o-lanterns. It got me thinking about Halloween. Of course here in the states that means trick-or-treating, lots of candy, costume parties, jack-o-lanterns and spooky movies. But I got curious about what people do in other parts of the world for this holiday, and what other countries even celebrate Halloween. Here’s what I found out.

Halloween is celebrated in North America, Canada and Ireland more than anywhere else in the world.

Ireland is believed to have been the birth place of Halloween. During the eighth century the Catholic Church designated the first day of November as 'All Saints Day’, a day of commemoration for those Saints that did not have a specific day of remembrance. The night before became known as 'All Hallows Eve' which, over time, became known as Halloween.

Carving Pumpkins dates back to the eighteenth century and to an Irish blacksmith named Jack who colluded with the Devil and was denied entry to Heaven. He was condemned to wander the earth but asked the Devil for some light. He was given a burning coal ember which he placed inside a turnip that he had gouged out. The tradition of Jack O'Lanterns was born - the bearer being the wandering blacksmith - a damned soul. Villagers in Ireland hoped that the lantern in their window would keep the wanderer away. When the Irish emigrated in millions to America there was not a great supply of turnips so pumpkins were used instead.

Today the Irish celebrate Halloween very similarly to Americans, with trick-or-treating, parties, and many also have bonfires.

In Mexico, Latin America and Spain, they celebrate “El Dia de los Muertos”, meaning Day of the Dead. Family & friends gather to pray for and remember loved ones who have passed away, and build private altars honoring them. The altars are decorated with candy sculls, flowers, water and other food. This celebration occurs on Nov. 1st and 2nd.

In Belgium, many light candles on Halloween night in memory of deceased relatives.

In Austria some people leave out bread and water on a table at night, as it was once believed it would welcome dead souls back to earth.

Germans put away their knives on Halloween night, as they do not want to risk harm on the returning spirits.

In England, many of the children have recently started trick-or-treating. Although, since it is so new here, many adults, especially older generations, aren’t familiar with it and usually don’t have candy ready to hand out on Halloween.

In China the holiday is called “Teng Chieh”, the Chinese people place food & water in front of photographs of the deceased, and burn bonfires & lanterns as a way to guide the spirits as they travel back to earth on Halloween night.

In Hong Kong it is known as “Yue Lan”, the Festival of the Hungry Ghosts. They believe that spirits roam the world for 24 hours.

If you are interested in celebrating Halloween somewhere else this year, or just want to plan a Fall Vacation, contact a Travel Professional for some great Fall specials today!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Security Check Now Starts Long Before Your Flight

The New York Times reports the Transportation Security Administration is expanding its screening of passengers before they arrive at the airport by searching a wide array of government and private databases that can include records like car registrations and employment information. If you have SSSS printed on your boarding pass it means you have been picked for enhanced screening. The TSA says that while the goal is to streamline the security procedures for millions of passengers who pose no risk, the new measures give the government greater authority to use travelers' data for domestic airport screenings. Previously that level of scrutiny applied only to individuals entering the United States. The prescreening, some of which is already taking place, is described in documents the T.S.A. released to comply with government regulations about the collection and use of individuals' data, but the details of the program have not been publicly announced. It is unclear precisely what information the agency is relying upon to make these risk assessments, given the extensive range of records it can access, including tax identification number, past travel itineraries, property records, physical characteristics, and law enforcement or intelligence information. The measures go beyond the background check the government has conducted for years, called Secure Flight, in which a passenger's name, gender and date of birth are compared with terrorist watch lists. Now, the search includes using a traveler's passport number, which is already used to screen people at the border, and other identifiers to access a system of databases maintained by the Department of Homeland Security.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

New UK Border Rules Could Turn Flight Attendants into Immigration Officers

The UK has a new immigration bill that could affect anyone travelling to the UK. Airline passengers could face lengthy queues at the departure gates when a raft of new border checks are introduced in 18 months. All travelers will have their passports swiped before they board their flight. The government wants airline staff to take on some of the power of an immigration officer so they can carry out passport inspections at the departure gate. Airlines will be compelled to carry out the checks or face a fine, under measures published by the Government in the Bill. It means airline staff, or those working for the airport, will check passports against electronic databases to "identify threats or persons of interest". The government is committed to introduce the exit checks by 2015 and the legislation will introduce powers to enable carrier and port operator staff to play a role in carrying out the checks. The aim of the bill is to make it much harder for offenders to flee British justice and to better identify those who are in the UK illegally.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

JFK Gets Automated Passport System

JFK International saw the introduction of automated passport machines yesterday to speed up the arrival of U.S. passengers from international flights. It's the latest airport-and one of the largest-to get the system. Similar self-service machines already in use at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport Terminal 5, and at two airports in Canada (Vancouver and Montreal) are already helping to significantly cut down wait times at customs that, at times, have forced arriving international passengers to stand in line for up to five hours or to be held back on a plane. 40 automated passport kiosks have been purchased by Delta for use in Terminal 4, where it is the largest tenant among more than 30 airlines. At JFK, only U.S. citizens will initially be able to use the machines, but soon Canadian citizens should be able to use the machines as well. The machines are being tested and if all goes well, they will be in operation by tomorrow.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Best Places for Fall Foliage in the U.S.

Autumn has fallen upon us in North America once again. The days are getting shorter, and the nights a little colder. In most areas of the country, leaves start turning in mid September; however the first two weeks of October is typically the peak for viewing foliage at its best, when leaves are their most brilliant. However, the amount of rain fall in a year also determines when leaves change and are their most intense.

These are some of the most beautiful places for fall foliage in the country.

Massachusetts features some of the best places for fall foliage; Cape Cod, the Berkshires, and the Mohawk trail are also some of the most popular. Visit a small historic village, small seaside town or beautiful rolling countryside.

Vermont enjoys a longer foliage season than most places, which runs from early September through late October. Vermont features some of New England’s most scenic golf courses, and also offers many fall festivals.

New Hampshire has 14 officially designated scenic drives covering over 900 miles. Drive over one of the states’ 50 covered bridges, or enjoy fall activities such as fall fairs or llama trekking.

Wisconsin offers prime fall color from mid-September through mid-October, and a variety of fall activities such as several fall festivals, corn mazes, resort destinations and beautiful fall drives along the Lake Michigan shoreline or through Kettle Moraine State forest.

Michigan offers many opportunities to view changing scenery and colors. Tahquamenon Falls, one of the largest water falls west of the Mississippi, or Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore are just a few. There are also a lot of farmers markets and U-pick fruit and vegetable stands throughout the state in the fall.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Rules Changing for Mobile Devices on Flights

An FAA advisory panel is expected to recommend relaxing restrictions on electronic devices during flights. The rules on when to turn off electronic devices on airplanes has long been a contentious point for travelers. But faced with a surge of electronics on airplanes and under pressure from a growing number of tech-savvy, and increasingly tech-dependent, passengers, the Federal Aviation Administration recognized that change was inevitable. This week, an FAA advisory panel will meet to complete its recommendations to relax most of the restrictions. The guidelines are expected to allow reading e-books or other publications, listening to podcasts, and watching videos. The ban on sending and receiving emails and text messages or using Wi-Fi during takeoff or landing is expected to remain in place, as is the prohibition on making phone calls throughout the flight.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

World's Largest Ferris Wheel is Under Construction

The world's largest ferris wheel is being built in Las Vegas. The outer wheel of the 55-story High Roller ride is scheduled to be hoisted into place Monday. The huge project is now visible from all over the city, including the airport. Early next year, it will be outfitted with 1,500 LED lights and start its slow spin. Caesars Entertainment Corp. is building the ride as part of a $550 million development across the street from Caesars Palace. The High Roller will be 100 feet taller than the London Eye, which opened in 2000, 30 feet taller than China's Star of Nanchang, which opened in 2006, and 9 feet taller than the Singapore Flyer, which opened in 2008. The Las Vegas ride will take 30 minutes to make one revolution. Tickets will be comparable to the London ride, which costs about $30, according to Caesars spokeswoman. The High Roller won't be the tallest for long as New York announced plans last year for a 625 foot ride on the waterfront.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

More Travelers Can Keep Shoes on at US Airports

The TSA announced yesterday that it would expand an expedited program to 60 more airports this year, allowing tens of millions of travelers to keep on their shoes and belts at airport checkpoints. The TSA's Pre Check program will expand to 100 airports in 42 US states plus Guam and Puerto Rico. The agency also plans to expand the number of TSA Pre Check lanes at the existing 40 airports in the coming weeks. TSA Pre Check allows pre-approved airline travelers may leave on their shoes, light outerwear and belt while they go through security. They do not have to remove laptop computers from cases or take out approved-sized liquids out of carry-on bags before the bags are screened. Passengers who are eligible for Pre Check include U.S. citizens of frequent traveler programs who are invited to apply by participating airlines including Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Hawaiian Airlines, United Airlines, US Airways and Virgin America.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

More Airlines Offering Child-Free Zones

Scoot Airlines, a subsidiary of Singapore Airlines, announced that it will let passengers pay about $14 to sit in a "child-free" zone. Children under the age of 12 are banned from sitting in this "Scoot in Silence" area, which will span rows 21 to 25 on its flights. This area also offers a few inches of more legroom. Scoot offers flights to Singapore, Sydney, the Gold Coast, Seoul and Nanjing. The airline joins Air Asia X, which also offers child-free zones. Air Asia X launched its "quiet zone" in February. Children under 12 aren't allowed to sit in this zone, which is composed of rows 7 - 14 in the premium cabin on some of its flights to Australia, China, Taiwan, Japan, Nepal and Korea.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

10 Ways to Stay Healthy While Traveling

Wherever you're traveling, and whether it be for vacation or business, of course you want to remain healthy. Here are a few tips to help out.

1. Reduce airport stress by allowing plenty of time to check in and get through security.

2. Always carry any medications with you in your carry-on, in their original containers.

3. Wear loose, comfortable clothing and shoes during your flight.

4. Eat lightly before and during your flight (and pack your own food).

5. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water both during your flight and for the duration of your trip.

6. Try to stand up and walk around the airplane cabin every once in a while.

7. Never purchase foreign medications unless you are familiar with them.

8. Make sure to wear sun block at tropical locations or in high altitudes.

9. Utilize hotel gyms, or if your hotel doesn't have one, go for brisk walks at least every other day.

10. Try to get a room with a refrigerator and microwave (or at least a refrigerator). That way you can stock it with your own food from the store, and have more control over what you eat.

Contact a Professional Travel Agent today for assistance with booking your next trip!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

10 Helpful Tips for Packing Light

With practically every airline charging fees for checked bags these days, many travelers are trying to find ways to avoid checking bags all together.

Packing light has many advantages besides just avoiding airline fees. For example, you don't have to stand around for an hour waiting for your bags to show up on the baggage carrousel upon arrival at your destination and there's no chance that your bags will be lost or damaged en route. It's also easier to get through busy airports and train stations with fewer and smaller bags, and it makes it simple to take public transportation, rather than relying on high cost taxis and limos.

Here are some tips and suggestions for packing light, and fitting all your travel luxuries into one easy, carry-on bag.

1. Make a Packing List base on items and clothing that you know you'll need on your trip and stick to it! Try to avoid bringing items that you think you might need.

2. Wear layered clothing when you travel, that stretches and breathes giving you more room in your bag.

3. Pack wrinkle-free clothing as much as possible.

4. Rolling your clothes instead of laying them flat in the bag will provide more space.

5. Select one or two color scheme. Sometimes it's a good idea to add a few items with dark patterns, such as plaids as they help hide wrinkles, stains and dirt.

6. Reversible clothing, especially tops, are great choices since they effectively double your clothing choices.

7. Pack clothing that will dry quickly as you may need to wash some items during your trip.

8. Consider using a dual-purpose bag (suitcase/backpack combined) if you're going to be doing a lot of walking.

9. To simplify things for yourself, consider buying toiletries such as shampoo and toothpaste during your trip.

10. Make sure to follow the TSA 3-1-1 Liquid Rules;

Any liquid or gel packed in your carry-on bag must fit in a container that is a maximum of 3 ounces.
1 Quart: Containers carrying your liquids and gels must be packed in a clear, plastic bag that is no larger than 1 quart and has to be able to close completely.

1 Person: Every person is allowed to bring one clear, quart-size bag of properly sized containers noted above. Many stores have increase their supply of toiletries that meet the TSA guidelines.

Contact a Professional Travel Agent today to get started booking your next vacation!

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Spain is Changing it's Travel Policies with Gibraltar

Spain says it is considering retaliatory measures towards the British Territory of Gibraltar that could include a 50 Euro border crossing fee. Spain is upset because Gibraltar is buidling an

artificial reef that is causing damage to fishing grounds. The proceeds of the fee would be used to help Spanish fishermen who have lost out because of the damage to the fishing grounds. Tax investigations into thousands of Gibraltarians who own property in Spain could also be launched. Spain is also considering closing airspace to planes heading to Gibraltar airport as well as changing rules to increase tax revenue from online gaming companies based on "the Rock". 

The Spanish ambassador was summoned to the British Foreign Office last week to explain why people crossing the border were having to wait up to seven hours in sweltering heat. Britain has held sovereignty over Gibraltar for three centuries and its 2.6 square miles is home to 30,000 people, with an economy dominated by off-shore banking, internet gambling operations and tourism. Ownership of the territory has long been a point of contention between Spain and Britain. The latest tensions began 10 days ago after Gibraltarian boats began dumping blocks of concrete into the sea near the territory.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Some Airlines are Now Weighing Carry-ons

Airline passengers are being warned they could face excess baggage fees at the check-in desk as handbags are being weighed. Travelers are being left confused by different carry-on luggage policies across airlines, and have been urged to closely read the individual allowances and also check baggage size. In Asia budget carriers Tiger and Jetstar weigh handbags as part of 10kg, two-item domestic carry-on limits. Passengers flying with airlines that have self check-in kiosks can go to the gate without their cabin bags being weighed, but may be pulled up by staff if they appear to be carrying too much. If a trip entails more than one airline be sure to check the luggage policies of both of them.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Universal Studios Bringing Back "The Walking Dead"

Universal Studios Hollywood and Universal Orlando Resort debut all new terrifying mazes inspired by Season 3 of the television series "The Walking Dead" at this year's Halloween Horror Nights events, beginning Sept. 20. The real maze experiences will place "Halloween Horror Nights" guests at the heart of the show's once impenetrable prison, the West Georgia Correctional Facility, now overrun by hordes of flesh-eating walkers. The mazes will send guests cowering through the walker-infested wilderness that surrounds the prison and into the town of Woodbury where gruesome secrets are concealed. Universal Orlando is also dedicating its entire "Halloween Horror Nights" street experience to "The Walking Dead," making this the first time ever that all of the scare zones throughout the park will be themed after a hit television series. Guests brave enough to walk the streets of Universal Studios Florida will encounter iconic scenes from all three seasons of the hit show, including the perilous city of Atlanta and Hershel's dismal barn and fleets of blood-thirsty walkers who are hungry for their next victim.

Universal Studios' "Halloween Horror Nights" events have a more than 20 year history of creating horrifying Halloween experiences that are consistently rated the nation's best. The events on each coast feature highly themed, disturbingly real, haunted mazes based on everything from films to nightmares, and streets filled with hundreds of specially trained "scare actors."

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Delta Adding Seattle to London Flights

Delta Airlines announced that it is launching a non-stop daily service between Seattle and Heathrown airports beginning in March 2014. The route will be operated by a 210-seat Boeing 767-300ER aircraft featuring 35 full flat-bed seats in business, 32 seats in premium economy and 143 economy seats. The outgoing flight departs Seattle-Tacoma International Airport at 6:40 p.m. and arrives at London Heathrow at 12:05 p.m. the following day. The return service leaves Heathrow at 12:20 p.m. and arrives at Seattle at 2:40 p.m. on the same day.

Currently, only British Airways flies on the non-stop Seattle to London route with a daily service which code shares with joint business partner American Airlines. Tickets for the route, which begins on March 29 (March 30 for the return service), will be available to purchase from July 27.

Contact a Professional Travel Agent today to book your Europe vacation!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Venice Now Available on Google Street View

It has taken six years, but the secrets of Venice's watery back alleys have finally been added to Google Street View. Google was unable to take their camera car to some of the narrow and winding back streets of Venice. Instead they used physically fit technicians to walk Venice's alleys wearing a backpack-mounted camera. In April two sturdy Google employees were each sent carrying a 4ft tall, 40lb backpack and camera which resembles an insect's eye and sticks above the wearer's head. The cameras' 15-angle lenses takes a picture every 2.5 seconds which can be merged into a 360degree view.

Google has already added the Antarctic, the inside of the White House and the Great Barrier Reef (underwater) to Street View, which was launched in 2007, but a spokesman said Venice was considered a feather in its cap. Google has previously used a tricycle-mounted camera to shoot inside parks and a trolley to get inside museums, but both methods were no good at scaling the steps over the bridges crossing Venice's canals. The backpack device, known as the trekker, has been used on Grand Canyon hiking paths in the US, the Burj Khalifa tower in Dubai and inside the Alhambra palace in southern Spain.

The images from Venice should be online by the end of the year, said Evans. Google is also planning to snap Venice from a boat as the vessel plies the city's canals, a service which has been dubbed "Google gondola".

Monday, July 15, 2013

US Airways Baggage Delivery Service

US Airways now gives their customers the ability to skip the line at baggage claim with Bags VIP delivery service. This service delivers bags to a passengers home, hotel or office. Travelers can schedule and pay for Bags VIP delivery up to one hour prior to their scheduled departure by visiting maketraveleasier.com/usairways. Once scheduled, customers need only to drop the bags off at the airport, pay any applicable baggage fees and they will be delivered within four to six hours of arrival. Bags VIP delivery service is offered in all domestic locations the airline serves. The airline also offers customers the Track Your Bag tool on usairways.com. Track Your Bag allows travelers to follow their bags from check-in to landing from their smart phone, tablet or laptop. Any passenger connected to the Internet can now view real-time information on the bag's status, including when the bag is checked in, on a plane, and off a plane, with US Airways' Track Your Bag tool.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Royal Caribbean Getting Viewing Pods on Some Ships

The 'North Star', a jewel-shaped, glass capsule will lift cruise passengers 91 meters above sea level before swinging out over the sea for this first-of-its-kind guest experience.  Crane supplier MacGregor is going to provide Royal Caribbean International's first Quantum-class ship, Quantum of the Seas, with the viewing pod. This will be a first for cruise ships. Fourteen guests and one crew member can be accommodated in the 7.1-ton viewing gondola, which will be fitted with a stabilizing system designed to provide a comfortable ride for guests. MacGregor, the crane supplier said "All crane movements will be smooth and immediate, with step less speed control, essential for this type of guest experience. It is also important that the experience is as quiet as possible, so the main power pack will be rubber-suspended to minimize vibrations and noise transmission; the crane housing will also be isolated to minimize noise. Given the vessel's cruising areas, the system is fitted with an air-type cooler to keep the crane's hydraulic oil at a moderate temperature even in very hot ambient conditions, which ensures a long oil life and reliable crane performance." 

The 16-deck, 4,180-passenger Quantum of the Seas ship is currently under construction at German shipyard, Meyer Werft and is scheduled to cross from Southampton to New York in autumn 2014. The vessel is then expected to depart New York from her Cape Liberty homeport for 7 to 12-night itineraries during the winter 2014-15 season. Quantum-class sister ship Anthem of the Seas is expected to debut in spring 2015. 

Contact a Cruise Specialist today to book your next cruise vacation!

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Best 4th of July Fireworks Displays

Original Article: Travelers Today
By: Katie McFadden

July 4th 2013 is almost here and that can only mean one thing: Fireworks! Nothing completes an Independence Day celebration like a spectacular fireworks show. Luckily, exciting displays are set off across the United States for the holiday and chances are there's one near you.  Travel Zoo released a list of some of the biggest and best fireworks displays around the country.

New York City
NYC has one of the biggest, most spectacular sky shows every year. This year, more than 40,000 fireworks will light up the skies over the Hudson River. The show, sponsored by Macy's, will start at around 8 p.m. and will be televised for those who can't be there. There will also be special performances by Usher, Taylor Swift, Selena Gomez, Mariah Carey and more.

Boston holds another impressive show. The Boston Pops Fireworks Spectacular is in its 40th year. This annual free concert at the DCR Hatch Shell in Beacon Hill will feature Susan Tedeschi, Ellis Hall, Howie Day and Ayla Brown. The concert starts at 7:30 p.m. followed by fireworks at 9:30 p.m.

Washington, D.C.
Nothing is more patriotic than watching fireworks in the nation's capitol. Fireworks will be launched from the Reflecting Pool area of the National Mall at 9:17 p.m. and will be visible from various locations around D.C. and parts of northern Virginia.  

Philadelphia After you grab a cheese steak, check out the Grand Finale Fireworks at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The display tops off a day of parties and concerts featuring The Roots, John Mayer, Neo, Jill Scott, J. Cole, Grace Potter, Ben Taylor and Demi Lovato.

Head to the popular Navy Pier throughout the week to catch a display over Lake Michigan on July 3 and July 4 at 9:30 p.m. or on July 6 at 10:15 p.m. The downtown area gets overcrowded, so consider heading a bit father south or to Evanston to get a lakefront view.

Near Dallas, the appropriately named Kaboom Town show is just like anything else in Texas--big. The show starts around 9:30 p.m. in the Dallas suburb and it shouldn't be missed.

In the heart of country, visitors and locals can check out At The Lawn at Riverfront Park, a show of more than 25,000 fireworks that are set to live music by the Nashville Symphony at 9:50 p.m.

San Francisco
Don't miss the show over the Bay in front of Pier 39. The show kicks off at 9:30 p.m. and viewers can get a glimpse from Coit Tower, the Cannery and Ghirardelli Square.

Seattle The Lake Union 4th of July fireworks have been held for more than 60 years, but they're still terrific. This year's show starts at 10:15 p.m. at Gas Works Park in the Wallingford neighborhood. Boaters will be able to access the south end of Lake Union to get a waterfront view.  

Original article can be found here.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Statue of Liberty and Liberty Island ReOpen on 4th of July

The Statue of Liberty and Liberty Island have been closed since Superstorm Sandy struck on October 29, causing flooding and damage.  The National Park Service is anticipating a busy July 4 weekend, based on advance ticket sales. Visitors are encouraged to book their visit in advance. Advance reservations are required for access to the Statue of Liberty's crown. Reservations can be made at www.statueoflibertytickets.com. Tickets are for a specific date and time and must be picked up at the ferry departure point in Battery Park in Manhattan.

All visitors will be screened in Manhattan prior to boarding the ferry. Those with crown reservations will have a second screening on Liberty Island before beginning the climb of 339 steps from the main lobby to the crown platform. An elevator goes only as high as the statue's pedestal, leaving 146 steps to get to the top. The only restrooms are in the statue's lobby. Ellis Island was also damaged in the storm.  It requires more extensive repairs and remains closed. There is no reopening date at this time.

Monday, June 24, 2013

FAA to Relax Rules for Electronic Gadgets in Flight

Airline passengers may not have to turn off devices in the near future as regulators are set to allow wider use of electronic gadgets in flight. The Federal Aviation Administration is expected to relax the ban on using some types of personal-electronic devices at low altitudes, allowing passengers leeway during taxiing and even takeoffs and landings, according to draft recommendations prepared by a high-level advisory panel to the agency.

For fliers, the new rules would likely mean an end to familiar admonitions to turn off and stow all electronic devices. Cell phone calls are expected to remain off limits. The draft doesn't make any recommendations regarding phone use because the FAA didn't authorize the panel to delve into that particularly controversial issue. Details are still being debated by the group and inside the FAA and could change. The draft report reflects a consensus that the existing rules, essentially unchanged since the 1960s, have been overtaken by dramatic changes in technology and passenger expectations.

The FAA's anticipated decision would relax the rules for use of approved devices from the time cabin doors close to when the plane reaches 10,000 feet. Some devices, such as e-readers, could even be used during all phases of a flight, if the FAA goes along with the thrust of the draft recommendations. The debate also has international ramifications, since rules for Wi-Fi systems and cell phone usage, vary among airlines and countries. Formed by the FAA last August, the 28-member panel includes industry, government and pilot-union representatives. Its findings have been eagerly awaited by airlines, regulators and safety experts around the world.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Paris Offers Training Manual to Improve Tourism Reputation

Paris has embarked on a new campaign to improve its reputation and better cater to the needs of tourists, because of its reputation of being rude to tourists. Waiters, taxi drivers and sales staff in the French capital are being given a manual with guidelines on better etiquette. The six-page booklet entitled "Do you speak Touriste?" contains greetings in eight languages including German, Chinese and Portuguese and advice on the spending habits and cultural codes of different nationalities.

France is the world's top destination for foreign tourists. Last year Paris had some 29 million people visited the City of Light. Tourism accounts for one in every ten jobs in the region. The Paris Chamber of Commerce and the regional tourism committee have warned, however, that growing competition from friendlier cities like London meant Paris needed to work harder to attract visitors, especially from emerging market countries such as China.

Contact a Professional Travel Agent today to book your next France vacation!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Historic D.C. Post Office Becoming Trump Hotel

The new venture by Donald Trump will turn the historic Washington Post Office into a luxury hotel which will include restaurants, conference rooms and a spa. An agreement for the future of the property was struck between the Trump Organization and the General Services Administration. The 114-year old property's historic features remaining will be preserved throughout the process. The deal must be reviewed by Congress before completion. The agreement allows Trump to lease the property for 60 years, and he is expected to put some $200 million into the project. If Congress allows the agreement to pass, the redevelopment project is slated to begin in 2014 and open tentatively in 2016. Trump expects the project to create hundreds of jobs and generate millions of dollars in investments for the District. The GSA acting administrator said the lease will help in saving the federal government millions of dollars while preserving a historical site.

Wednesday, June 05, 2013

United Airlines Introduces Baggage Subsciption

United Airlines is now offering travelers a way to pay for checking their baggage for an entire year. United's baggage subscription service allows travelers to prepay their standard checked baggage charges for an entire year. Travelers can customize their subscription online by selecting the number of bags, the number of passengers and the preferred geographic regions. The new program started earlier this week.  United is also offering annual subscription service for Economy Plus seating.  "The Economy Plus and checked baggage subscriptions offer our customers more of the comfort and convenience they value year round," Scott Wilson, United's vice president of merchandising and e-commerce, said. Subscriptions can also be given as a gift. United is currently the only U.S. carrier to offer an annual subscription for its extra-legroom economy seating and checked baggage service charges. A "global" checked-baggage subscription includes two bags, and costs $799.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

NYC Launches Bike Share Program

The privately funded Citi Bike bike share program launched in New York this week, after lead sponsor Citigroup Inc. The 6,000 bikes are stationed primarily in Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn, with over 300 docking stations. Officials hope to eventually expand to 10,000 bikes and 600 docking stations in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. The program could potentially ease traffic congestion and air pollution for New York.  Riders now can unlock the three-gear, cruising-style bikes from any station, take them for 45-minute rides and return them to any rack. Of all the more than 500 bike-sharing systems around the world, New York's is the biggest in the United States. Almost twenty thousand people have already signed up for New York's program.

The city has hundreds of miles of bike lanes and promotes cycling as a healthy and environmentally friendly alternative to driving. Officials see bike-sharing as a big next step. Citi Bike subscribers pay a $95 annual fee for unlimited rides of 45 minutes. Starting June 2, riders also will be able to buy a 24-hour pass for about $10 and a seven-day pass for $25; both allow for an unlimited number of 30-minute trips. The usage time is logged when a bicycle is returned to a dock, with additional charges if the bikes have been out past the allotted time.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Cuba Cruise to Begin Sailing in December

Cuba Cruise will make its first sailing on December 16 using Louis Cristal as its ship. The seven night cruise will sail around Cuba and continue to March 24. Cuba Cruise ship circles around the island with itineraries starting in Havana and Montego Bay. You can board at either city. The 25,611 ton Louis Cristal has a yacht-like design with both staterooms and suites. Some have balconies and all have shower, bathroom, telephone, hairdryer and TV. The all-inclusive sailings will have Cuban entertainment and cuisine imported from Canada. Passengers will be able to visit six UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The ship calls at Holguin, Santiago de Cuba, Montego Bay, Cienfugeos & Trinidad, Puenta Francis and Havana. The lead-in price is $586 per person.

Contact a Professional Travel Agent today to book your next cruise.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Why You Should Use a Travel Agent

In this era of technology, many travelers have foregone the days of using of a Travel Agent, and instead have began booking all their travels online.

In some cases, such as a simple non-stop flight within the United States, this is often the quickest and easiest scenario. However, there are many cases where booking your trip with a huge online company may not be to your benefit.

For instance, if you are planning a vacation to a foreign country that you know very little about, it’s probably in your best interest to contact a Travel Agency that specializes in that country. Most Travel Agents specialize in a specific country or region of the world, and they can be an abundance of knowledge and information, and very helpful with planning all the details of your vacation, finding the best rates, assisting with travel visa’s, etc.

Also, think of all the time you will save if you use a Travel Agent. Once you have discussed your travel dates, interests and budget with a Travel Agent, you can relax and let them do all the work for you, and rest assured that they will have the knowledge of which hotels and tour companies are more reputable, will give you the best experience and provide the most value for you.

The most important reason to book with a Travel Agent, as many travelers have found out the hard way, is in case a problem or emergency should arise during your trip. Say you booked your trip with one of the huge online companies or directly with the airline. If an emergency, such as a natural disaster, inclement weather or even personal emergency should occur, good luck getting assistance. You are pretty much on your own. Most airlines have substantially cut back on their customer service staff in recent years, making wait times painfully long.
When your trip has been booked with a Travel Agency, you have the comfort of having a direct phone number and email address to contact your personal Travel Agent for quick and personal support and assistance. Travel Agents are typically able to get in contact with the airlines, hotels or travel insurance quickly, and also assist with rebooking flights much quicker than the average traveler can.

Contact a Professional Travel Agent today to get started booking your next vacation!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

US Border Control Implements New Technology to Reduce Long Lines

The United State Border Control has implemented new technology aimed at reducing lines and increasing the efficiency of the United States border crossing process. Launching first in the Vancouver International Airport, and then followed closely by Chicago's O'Hare, the technology will allow for passengers to skip the traditional filled out documents in favor of the now-ubiquitous e-kiosks.

The new program is called Automated Passport Control. It has the ability to set the global standard for improving passenger efficiency when travelling to the United States. Automated Passport Control will eliminate the declaration card by placing all of the necessary questions on the kiosk. Travelers will then receive a printed receipt and show the receipt rather than the hand-written card.  Travelers will then show their passport, kiosk receipt and any other travel information to the customs agent for processing.