Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Tips for holiday travel, part 2

With the U.S. Thanksgiving travel season officially underway, here are a few more tips intended to make your holiday travels go more smoothly.

Whether you are traveling by air or driving over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house, the travel agency group Travel Leaders recommends making a check list of essential items like chargers for electronic devices and prescription medications. “It’s easy to forget the items you use every day and you don’t want to spend your trip seeking replacements,” the organization said in an email to TheTravelPro. 

How true. I spent too much time during my trip to Hawaii for Spam Jam shopping for a camera cable to replace one I’d inadvertently left at home. Travel Leaders also recommends procuring a portable battery charger with a USB connector as a back up.

Your papers, please
Alaska Airlines' Salmon One departs SEA
Make sure your identification is valid. A piece of ID that has passed the expiration date could bring your trip to a screeching halt at the airport’s security checkpoint or earn you a second ticket for driving with an expired license if you are pulled over during your road trip. If your driver’s license has expired and there’s no time to replace it before flying, a valid passport or other form of government-issued identification will suffice.

It is a very good idea to have color photocopies or digital copies of all important identification documents including your passport, driver’s license and health insurance information. Be sure to pack all paper copies or flash drives in a separate location for extra safe-keeping.

However tempting it may be to also carry photocopies of your credit or debit cards, you may be risking identity theft or credit card fraud. Where those cards are concerned, list only your bank’s name, the type of card (VISA credit card, MasterCard Debit/ATM card) AND your bank’s Customer Service numbers including the number to call collect if you are traveling overseas. If your cards are lost or stolen, your bank will be able to locate the numbers using your social security number and other personal identifying information. If your list or photocopy of your cards is lost or stolen, thieves could rack up hundreds or thousands of dollars in charges before you even become aware that the list is missing.

Medications
If you take prescription medications, be sure you have a sufficient supply for your trip and that the medication or medications are in the original prescription bottle(s) with your name and the name of the medication on it. While it may be convenient, do not give in to the temptation to put several medications into one bottle. If a TSA or customs officer wants to look into the bottle and sees several different types of pills it could, at the very least, mean a delay while you explain your different medications.

If you are traveling overseas, it is also advisable to get a letter from your doctor, particularly if you will be carrying any medication that is a narcotic (including codeine) or psychotropic (used to treat anxiety and depression). The letter should identify you as a patient under their care, provide details about what the medications are, what they are for, and that it is necessary that you travel with them. Most physicians are accustomed to providing such letters and often have standard language they include. Some may charge a modest fee for providing the letter while others will not. In any case, paying a small fee could be worth it if you are asked to produce such a letter. You may not be asked for such a document but it could be very difficult to enter the country with medications if it is requested and you don’t have one.

Be sure to take enough doses of each medication to cover the expected duration of your trip plus a few extra doses in the event of unforeseen delays. Finally, never ever EVER put necessary medications in your checked luggage.

List your contacts
In this age of cellphones that are password or fingerprint protected, it is important to carry a hard copy of emergency contact information, either next of kin or a close friend. Other contact information that should be added to your cellphone should include your airline’s reservations number for ready access if your plans change or if there is a problem with your aircraft and you need to rebook. Several years ago, when my plane developed mechanical problems, I called the airline and was able to rebook my flight as the pilot was taxiing back to the gate. While other passengers were still calling family and friends, I had completed making my alternate arrangements.

If you use one, include your travel agent’s number and email, especially if his or her agency has a 24-hour emergency line.

When traveling internationally, add the contact information for the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate at your overseas destination.

Other suggestions pertain specifically to air travel. In addition to those I detailed in my previous article, here are a few more recommendations.

Double check your baggage
Overhead space will be at a premium during the holiday travel season, especially as people bring gifts for friends and family or return home with gifts they’ve received. When preparing to pack your bags, check in advance whether your luggage meets the airline’s size limit for a carry-on, which is typically 45 linear inches. While most domestic airlines do not have a weight limit for carry-ons, Hawaiian Airlines limits those bags to 25 pounds. Many foreign carriers have weight limits for carry-ons, which are typically 22 pounds (10 kilograms), but in some cases are even less. Lufthansa, for example, limits carry-ons to 8 kilograms, or 17.2 pounds. Also, be sure your checked bags are under your airline’s weight limit or be prepared to pay additional over-weight fees.

Save gift wrapping for later
Because wrapped packages are screened like any other item, anything that raises the TSA’s collective eyebrow could mean undoing all your handiwork. Carry gifts through security unwrapped and pack paper and a small roll of tape so you can wrap them after you pass through security or when you reach your destination. Also consider shipping packages in advance.

Safe and pleasant holiday travels!

Visit my main page at TheTravelPro.us for more news, reviews, and personal observations on the world of upmarket travel.



Photos by Carl Dombek
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